A new day in Washington

January 20, 1993

The inauguration of a new administration is a time of renewed hope, a time to celebrate and a time to pause and enjoy the sight of history in the making. Today the most powerful office in the world is passing from one man, George Bush, to another, William Jefferson Clinton. In the larger eye of history, the personalities of those two men and their paths to the presidency are less momentous than the ability of a people to create a system of government in which power is gained and given up peacefully.

In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein tries to gloat that he has outlasted Mr. Bush's term in office. But as the Iraqi people well know, remaining in office by brute force is a hollow victory indeed. Mr. Bush, like other defeated presidents, understands that the personal pain of his loss pales in significance to the power of democracy at work.

President Clinton now faces awesome challenges. Already a tangle of international crises threatens to interrupt the attention he promised to pay to domestic affairs. Anarchy in Somalia and war in the Balkans are but two current examples of the messy situations that will arise in the post-Cold War world.

Meanwhile, American cities struggle to feed, shelter and educate a growing underclass, while taxpaying families continue to flee for the suburbs. The mayors who gathered in Baltimore for a pre-inaugural gala Monday night know at first hand the dire needs facing urban America -- and the scarcity of resources to meet those needs.

The days ahead will be filled with work and worries aplenty. Deficits and domestic problems will compete with international responsibilities and the world's need for American leadership.

But those are tomorrow's battles. Today is a day for hope and celebration, a time for inspiration and contemplation, a time too for parades and balls, for laughter and fun. At their best, inaugurations represent a renewal of spirit. On this day, all Americans wish their new leader well. After all, so much rests in his hands.

Americans are good at many things. But nothing better illustrates the singular achievement of this country than its ability to handle succession in a spirit of continuity. People around the world have watched intently today as an outgoing president yields gracefully to a new and youthful one who, today at least, can take time to lead the nation in a celebration of the peculiarly American talent of turning hope into a new beginning.

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