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As President Bush forms modern domestic policy, he is trying to revive an idea that has largely disappeared since the generation of America's Founding Fathers 200 years ago.

"That's the idea of working for posterity, the notion that we must invest in our future," said Utahn Roger Porter, Bush's assistant for economic and domestic policy, in a speech Friday to the BYU Management Society in Washington.Porter said Bush once wondered aloud in a long conversation with him what made America's small, early population produce so many great founding leaders - including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Adams.

Bush decided that it was their often-expressed desire to work for posterity. Washington mentioned the word "posterity" nine times in one speech. That generation used the word repeatedly in its journals. And Founding Fathers talked of the effect of their actions into the 1,000th generation of Americans.

Porter said more recent presidents have been unable to aim goals in such directions, often being caught up in crises of the day ranging from wars to depressions and runaway inflation.

But Porter said Bush had the advantage of coming into office without facing any such all-consuming crises - and he has chosen to plan his domestic policy to build for the good of future generations.

"That includes reducing public borrowing and increasing personal savings," he said. Also it includes initiatives to fight drugs, improve education, protect the environment and continue scientific research and development.

"This is going to be a challenging time for the country . . . because it will test our maturity as a people, our ability to defer gratification and invest in the future," Porter said.

Porter said Bush has also brought two other qualities to domestic policy that differ from his immediate predecessors: a realistic approach in his programs and a sincere desire to make America kinder and gentler.

Bush is realistic in his approaches, not making proposals that are outlandish, he said.

For example, Porter said budgets by Reagan - for whom he was also an aide - were usually considered dead on arrival by Congress because of his heavy defense spending proposals and little on other domestic programs. But Bush strives to propose something that will serve as a realistic starting point for discussions.

Porter said Bush is also trying to form partnerships with the states and Congress to solve problems realistically and not simply by spending more money on them. He wants to measure a program's success by its outcomes, rather than how much was put into it.

Porter said Bush's call for a kinder, gentler nation is more than rhetoric - that the president sincerely wants it to happen. "That's why we have had proposals on Medicaid, child care, the homeless, the disabled, minimum wage and extension of the Civil Rights Commission."