'This is Our Time' Clinton takes oath, hails 'new season of renewal'

January 21, 1993|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton took the oath as 42nd president of the United States yesterday in a sunbathed ceremony in front of a sparkling Capitol and proclaimed triumphantly: "A new season of American renewal has begun."

In a transfer of power notable for its civility, he saluted a half-century of public service by George Bush, who rode with him up Pennsylvania Avenue for the inaugural ceremony before flying out of Washington and out of politics.

Vice President Al Gore having been sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White minutes earlier, control of the nation passed to two sons of the South at noon, when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist administered the presidential oath of office to William Jefferson Clinton.

Mr. Clinton's ascension to the presidency symbolized a political and generational shift in power, ending 12 years of Republican rule and giving the nation its third-youngest president.

The day's festivities continued with an inaugural parade reviewed by the Clintons and Gores from a stand in front of the White House and ended with a round of 11 inaugural balls, the social highlight of a celebratory week.

After the ceremony, Mr. Clinton issued his first executive order, formalizing the new ethic rules for members of his administration, and signed a proclamation asking all citizens "to join me in renewing our commitment to the American ideals of fellowship and hope."

In an inaugural speech just under 15 minutes, the third-shortest, the new president committed himself to revitalizing the nation and leading the post-Cold War world.

To the nation, he issued a call for work, sacrifice, service and change.

"Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time," he said. "Well, my fellow citizens, this is our time. Let us embrace it.

"Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America. And so today, we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift. A new season of American renewal has begun.

"To renew America we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt."

To the world, he issued a warning that the United States would defend its own interests and confront those who defied international "conscience and will," a message meant most immediately for Iraq, which is defying the United Nations, and the former Yugoslavia, where Serbian "ethnic cleansing" has outraged the world.

"While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges, nor fail to seize the opportunities, of this new world," he said. "Together with our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us.".

To Congress, in a post-inaugural luncheon toast, he proposed "a new partnership in government" to break the gridlock. "I cannot succeed as president unless Congress itself succeeds," he said.

After the luncheon, the new first family drove slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue, cheered by thousands of flag-waving well-wishers. They got out of their car, coatless in the early-afternoon sun, to walk the last half-mile to the White House. They did not plunge into the crowds, as they routinely did during the campaign, but walked down the center of the street, flanked by Secret Service agents.

The inauguration was a changing of political eras, marked by a hymn from a Little Rock, Ark. choir, the national anthem sung by mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and a poem composed and read by writer-historian Maya Angelou, the granddaughter of a slave, who played the same role Robert Frost did at John F. Kennedy's inaugural in 1961.

It was a day as memorable for some of the little incidents as for the big:

Mr. Clinton's irritation as his wife dallied over leaving Blair House to have coffee with the Bushes. "Come on, jump to it," he called impatiently up the steps.

The Bushes greeting the Clintons at the front door of the White House with "Welcome to your new home."

Barbara Bush encouraging Chelsea to pet Millie, the outgoing White House dog.

Mr. Bush's grimace, wink and thumbs-up to the few remaining staff members as he drove away from the White House for the last time as president.

The obvious awkwardness of the young winner having to escort the older loser out of the Capitol for his last flight on the presidential plane.

The generational change in leadership was highlighted by the involvement of children. Chelsea had her hand on the Bible, alongside her mother's, while her father was sworn in. The Gore children clustered around to hug their father after he took his oath of office. Chelsea and the Gore children rode up Pennsylvania Avenue in their own limousine in the motorcade.

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