WASHINGTON -- President Bush, declaring that 'a new breeze is blowing,' offered a hand of compromise to Congress and urged Americans in his inaugural address Friday to help the less fortunate with a new 'hands-on' activism.
To the world, he promised a 'new engagement' by the United States and to 'continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union' while keeping America 'strong to protect the peace.'
'I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead,' Bush told a crowd estimated at 200,000 outside the Capitol. 'For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater.'
Minutes after being sworn in as the 41st president on the Capitol's West Front, Bush turned to the man he served for eight years as vice president and thanked Ronald Reagan 'for the wonderful things you have done for America.'
The 77-year-old former president, sitting behind Bush, smiled and appeared touched by the remark.
Turning back, Bush offered a brief prayer for strength and humility in his new administration and, mixing optimism with acknowledgement of the nation's ills, appealed for help from Democrats in Congress and from all Americans.
'I come before you and assume the presidency at a moment rich with promise,' Bush said in his 21-minute address. 'We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better.
'For a new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing.
'A new breeze is blowing -- and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on: There is new ground to be broken, and new action to be taken.'
Saying the future is so bright that it seems like 'a door you can walk right through,' Bush at the same time called on Americans to shed greed and personal aspirations to search in their hearts for 'what matters.'
'America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral purpose,' he said. 'We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.'
The phrase was a takeoff on his promise at the Republican National Convention in August to try to make the United States a 'kinder, gentler nation.'
'My friends, we have work to do,' Bush said. 'There are the homeless, lost and roaming -- there are the children who have nothing, no love, no normalcy -- there are those who cannot free themselves of enslavement to whatever addiction, drugs, welfare, the demoralization that rules the slums.
'There is crime to be conquered ... there are young women to be helped, who are about to become mothers of children the can't care for and might not love ... they need our care, our guidance and our education.'
Declaring that the budget deficit must be lowered and the federal 'wallet' is too low, he called on all Americans to help the neediest among them.
'I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others -- a new activism, hands-on and involved, that gets the job done,' he said, adding that the nation must harness the 'unused talent of the elderly and the unfocused energy of the young.'
'The old ideas are new again because they're not old, they're timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.'
Bush also appealed to Democratic leaders in Congress to work with him to balance the federal budget and keep the nation strong and at peace.
'A new breeze is blowing -- and the old bipartisanship must be made new again,' he said.
Turning to House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas and Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine seated behind him, Bush said, 'I am putting out my hand to you Mr. Speaker. I am putting out my hand to you, Mr. Majority Leader.
'For this is the thing: This is the age of the offered hand.'
Wright smiled and nodded to Bush; Mitchell sat still.
'The American people await action,' Bush said. 'They didn't send us here to bicker. They ask us to rise above the merely partisan. In crucial things, unity -- and this, my friends, is crucial.
'Let us negotiate soon -- and hard. But in the end, let us produce.'
Bush's inaugural address was warmly received by lawmakers and the public.
Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., said Bush's 'conciliatory approach and his promise for a kinder and gentler America bodes well for us all.'
'I thought he made a fine speech,' said Rep. Claude Pepper, D-Fla.
Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said she saw hopeful signs that Bush is serious about reaching out to all Americans.
'When I look at the direction in which the president's appointments are going I think it's going to be more inclusive. That's what Dr. King would want.'
In his speech, Bush offered the world 'a new engagement' and he appealed to other nations, without naming Iran or Vietnam, for help regarding the release of American hostages in Lebanon and for 'Americans unaccounted for.'
'Assistance can be shown here, and will be long remembered,' Bush said. 'Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on.'
At the same time, he said, 'The 'offered hand' is a reluctant fist; once made strong, it can be used to great effect.'
Promising to keep 'our alliances and friendships around the world strong, ever strong, we will continue the new closeness with the Soviet Union, consistent both with our security and with progress.'
'One might say that our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength over experience. But hope is good. And so is strength. And vigilance.'
Bush said his thoughts the past few days had turned to those people who would be watching the inauguration at home on television.
'And to all I say: No matter what your circumstances or where you are, you are part of this day, you are part of the life of our great nation,' Bush said, adding that he yearns for 'a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness about each other's attitudes and way of life.'
'There are few clear areas in which we as a society must rise up united and express our intolerance. The most obvious now is drugs ... there is much to be done and to be said but take my word: This scourge will stop!' he said with the most emphasis delivered in his monotone speech.
'And so,' Bush said, 'there is much to do and tomorrow the work begins.'
Concluding, the new president said, 'The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds -- and so today a chapter begins: a small and stately story of unity, diversity and generosity -- shared and written together.'
Bush recited the brief oath of office administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist at 12:03 p.m. EST, while first lady Barbara Bush held a family Bible and a Bible used by George Washington two centuries ago.
Bush, dressed in a simple suit, gave his speech under overcast skies but in spring-like temperatures of 50 degrees. He was seldom interrupted by applause.
Moments earlier, J. Danforth Quayle of Indiana was sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.