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A New Era Begins

By: Daniela Ricci The 54th Inauguration of the 43rd President of the United States took place on a freezing cold, rainy Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. on January 20, 2001 on the west front of the US Capitol. President Bush arrived led by Senators and Congressmen and joined former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore on the stage, anticipating his oath of office and the enormous job that lay ahead.

The Clinton's looked happy, doing their part to welcome the Bush and Cheney families to their new roles. The Reverend Franklin Graham, standing in for his ailing father, gave the invocation as a light drizzle fell on the bowed heads and shoulders of a massive crowd gathered on the National Mall.

And for the second time in history, a father watched his son take the oath of office to become President of the United States. The second President Bush to occupy the Oval Office placed his right hand on the same Bible and spoke the same words which George Washington spoke when he took his oath to become the first President of the United States in 1789. The King James Bible had made its way south from New York City the day before on a Metroliner train. Meanwhile, in the crowds below, many people who had traveled far and wide to attend the ceremony had little hope of getting a good view of the President, let alone a seat. "We got standing room tickets from our Congressman, but we'll have to see if we get anywhere close," said a visitor from Texas. As people thronged closer to the Capitol, they were pushed back as a motorcade passed down Constitution Avenue.

As wife Laura Welch Bush and twin daughters Barbara and Jenna looked proudly on, a mere 35 words later, the nation had a new President. An emotional First Family embraced. All but the President's father were able to hold back tears as the Bush's basked in the moment.

"This is a time to affirm old traditions and make new beginnings," said President Bush before thanking President Clinton for his service and applauding Vice President Gore for a race "conducted with spirited and ended with grace." After a brief speech in which unity and commitment to community were stressed, the Bush's and the Clinton's walked to the bottom of the Capital steps, where they said goodbye. As the Clinton's boarded a limousine, the new President said to Senator Clinton, "I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot of you!"

Asked how they felt after the swearing in ceremony took place, George W. Bush said he felt "humbled and honored," Bill Clinton said he felt "great," Al Gore said he felt "fine," and that he thought the speech was "good," and George Herbert Walker Bush said "It's a great day for our family," and he gave his son's speech an "A+."

The new President returned to the Capitol to engage in his first official act as Commander in Chief - officially signing the nominations of his Cabinet members, many of which were confirmed by the Senate later that afternoon. He then headed to the Congressional Brunch to celebrate his inauguration.

Not many people were lingering on the Mall as the rain turned from mist to drizzle to a steady downpour, the wind turning some umbrellas inside out.

"This weather is for the dogs," said one Houston visitor who had made the trip with her daughter yesterday to catch the festivities. "But I'm just glad to be a part of this historic day."
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