Reunion and renewal

January 21, 1993

The mood down the road in Washington, D.C. is nothing short of euphoric this week. The pre-inaugural weekend featured a festival on the Mall billed as an "American Reunion," the theme for the week's festivities. Bringing the country together -- bridging the gaps of race, class, income and ideology that have produced friction in the national spirit -- was a major theme of the Clinton campaign.

After a transition marked by the predictable jolts produced when rhetoric meets reality, the inauguration offered a chance to rekindle the optimism that marked the campaign. No doubt the new president, a man who clearly enjoys crowds and festivities, welcomed that chance. But so did the country. The need for hope, for optimism and pride in America is almost palpable. The country needs a reunion.

It also needs renewal, a major theme of President Clinton's inaugural address. Renewal means change, and the new president addressed that, too. "The urgent question of our age," he said, "is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy."

How this country adjusts to change and reacts to the challenges ahead will be the ultimate yardstick by which the Clinton presidency is judged. During the 1980s Americans were lulled by assurances that it was "Morning in America." Now, however, the debts, both social and fiscal, are coming due with a vengeance. Renewing America now means finding ways to address a social blight that threatens the core of this society -- but doing so while cutting a massive federal deficit.

The kind of changes President Clinton was talking about go beyond the shift in power from one administration to another, momentous as that may seem this week. A society's ability to accommodate change can be seen in its willingness to accept challenges, to bear burdens, to exercise discipline and not shy away from hard choices.

Recognizing those choices and tackling them with intelligence and courage is what it means "to make change our friend and not our enemy." That is the task the nation now faces.

It's easy to talk about reunion, renewal and change. It's refreshing to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power that took place yesterday. But it's also important to remember that Mr. Clinton was elected largely because the country is hungry for change and sick of business as usual. Fulfilling those hopes won't be easy.

Today, as the real work of governing begins, let us hope President Clinton goes about his tasks fully aware of the message underlying the euphoria: You promised changes. Please make them, and make them count.

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