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Bush inauguration, speech filled with prayers, spiritual references

WASHINGTON (BP)–George Walker Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States Jan. 20 and began his first full day of his presidency with a prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral and a declaration of Jan. 21 as a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.

About 3,000 people attended the Sunday service in which Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, delivered a sermon.

“We have gathered here today with renewed hope for America,” Graham said. “I pray that God will place his great hand of protection on each and every one and especially upon you, Mr. President, and your family.

“This prayer service demonstrates our recognition and need for help from the Almighty,” Graham said. “We affirm that we are indeed a free and independent people, but in a far more profound sense, we are a people that are dependent on Almighty God.”

Graham delivered a stirring, evangelical message that explained salvation through Jesus Christ and that true hope abides in God.

“Only a personal relationship with the Living God can fill the moral vacuum that exists in the world today,” Graham told the nation’s leaders. “It is God, and God alone, that can solve the crises in which we find ourselves — and he uses people to carry out his work.”

The day before, Graham delivered the invocation at the inaugural ceremonies for President Bush, quoting a passage from 1 Chronicles 29:10-12:

“Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, Your’s O Lord is the greatness and majesty and the splendor; For everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; You are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”

Graham used the prayer to encourage the nation to “rise above partisan politics and seek the larger vision of Your will for our nation.”

Most noteworthy, both Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell, minister at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, invoked the name of Jesus in their inauguration prayers.

“We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit,” Graham prayed.

Bush, in his inaugural address that was filled with spiritual and religious imagery, asked Americans to match “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.”

“Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment,” Bush said in relatively brief inaugural address, which he delivered from a platform outside the United States Capitol under a thick cover of clouds. As hundreds of thousands of spectators huddled against chill winds, he said: “It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.”

Bush pledged to dedicate himself to that ideal and, his voice and words as muted in their way as the gray scene around him, spoke of unity and duty and responsibility.

“I ask you to be citizens,” Bush said. “Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.”

Using the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan, Bush challenged Americans to help one another and those in need.

“Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do,” Bush said. “And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.”

The new president urged citizens to stand up and shoulder the responsibility of caring for the less fortunate in American society.

“Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools,” he said. “Yet compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government. And some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a mentor’s touch or a pastor’s prayer. Church and charity, synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, hailed the address as the “most overtly religious speech in its tone of any inaugural address in living memory.”

“I felt that it signals that President George W. Bush is not going to be intimidated by the media elites into pretending that we are a secular nation,” Land said. “We are not. We have a secular government but we are among the most religious nations on earth.”

Land said Bush’s reference to the Good Samaritan was particularly apt.

“The only thing that government contributed to in the story of the Good Samaritan was the failure to provide adequate police protection so that the victim was mugged,” Land noted. “So the president is not talking about the government being the Good Samaritan, but rather fostering an environment where citizens take care of their fellow citizens.”

Prior to Bush’s inaugural address, the 54-year-old former governor of Texas took the oath of office with a hand placed firmly on the same 1767 King James Version of the Bible used by his father, the nation’s 41st president, 12 years earlier.

Gathered around George W. Bush on the platform, built along the West Front of the Capitol, were the people who helped propel him to the presidency: his wife, Laura Bush, whom he credits for leading him toward discipline and purpose in his adult life; his father, former President George Bush, who bequeathed him a name and a network of connections that lent a crucial momentum to his campaign; Bill Clinton, whose personal scandals gave Bush a fighting chance against a sitting vice president in an era of prosperity; and that vice president, Al Gore, to whom Bush in his inaugural address credited with a campaign “conducted with spirit and ended with grace.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HSU MARCHING BAND, INAUGURAL PROCESSIONAL, PROTESTERS.

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  • Todd Starnes