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Message of freedom

Bush takes oath, says defending liberty ‘is the calling of our time’

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WASHINGTON — Four years ago, President Bush sought to unify a nation divided by a protracted, contested election.


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Complete text of President Bush’s inaugural address

On Thursday, the president took the oath of office for the second time before throngs of supporters, tens of thousands strong, seeking a world unified under the banner of God-given rights to freedom.

"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," Bush said. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Defending freedom across the globe "is the calling of our time."

Braving winter chills and a handful of hecklers, the president said the nation will embrace democratic movements and institutions in every nation, "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

From the time of the Founding Fathers, he said, Americans have proclaimed that "every man and woman on this earth" has rights, dignity and value.

"Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security."

The Bush doctrine, the basis for U.S. involvement in the Middle East, is admittedly risky, said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, but it is also bold.

"History will remember him primarily for his initiatives for peace in the Middle East," Bennett said. "If he succeeds, he will be one of the greatest presidents ever. If he fails, he will be remembered as someone who gambled big and lost."

The swearing-in ceremony, conducted under a blanket of unprecedented security, featured all the traditional pomp and ceremony. There were military bands playing "Hail to the Chief," stirring hymns, prayers and thousands singing "The Star Spangled Banner" with hands over hearts and tears in their eyes.

The ceremonies even had a bit of a Utah flavor. During the moments leading up to the swearing in, when invited guests were filing in, the Rev. Wintley Phipps sang "Heal Our Land," a song written by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Janice Kapp Perry.

"I was thrilled and surprised," said Hatch, who did not know until Wednesday the song was on the program.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., organizer of the inaugural swearing-in activities, actually pressed the White House to have the song sung at the inaugural after hearing Phipps sing it at a GOP fund-raiser.

Bush, 58, emerged from the Capitol onto the south steps shortly before noon, placed his hand on a family Bible and took the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

During Bush's subsequent inaugural address, protesters who infiltrated the Republican faithful on the Washington Mall shouted "Stop the war" and booed. But with each shout, the crowd simply drowned out the hecklers with cheers for the president and chants of "USA."

Bush either didn't notice the hecklers or ignored them.

It was a day of decorum and ceremony, with the most powerful leaders in government, Democrats and Republicans alike, applauding the peaceful culmination of an election process that left the nation deeply divided. Even Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the losing Democratic standard-bearer, who sat only about 20 feet away from the president, applauded politely and smiled from time to time.

"It was not so much what the president said that struck me," said Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, "but how, despite the competition and battles, we come together as a country to celebrate the office."

Matheson called it truly remarkable that former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush would "be united in purpose," standing together in support of a process whereby all Americans celebrate a peaceful elections process.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was impressed with the speech, the first inaugural address he has attended in person.

"I thought he hit a good balance between a policy statement and just giving broad overviews of what the country should be," Bishop said. "He addressed why he has done what he has over the past four years, his emphasis on freedom and pushing that as an overall philosophy."

Bush's inaugural address touched on a variety of issues including public service, reforming Social Security, setting higher education standards and creating an "ownership society." He also reached out, pledging to do his part to heal the divisions resulting from the rancorous election.

"By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal."

But Bush kept returning to his theme of world-wide freedom, sending the message far beyond American borders that the country stands ready and willing to spread the doctrine throughout the world.

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors," he said. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

Bennett said Bush made his case "quite movingly," calling the address "a great moment in American history.

Hatch called it an "intellectually profound address that people will read and comment on for years. And they are profound remarks delivered in less than 20 minutes."

Even though Bush never mentioned Iraq directly, his message may have been intended as much to bolster morale at home, where public opinion polls show that support for the war in Iraq has dramatically eroded.

"Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary, we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom," Bush concluded.

E-mail: spang@desnews.com