WASHINGTON -- President Clinton summoned the nation Wednesday to embrace a spirit of renewal and responsibility on a path of greater equality, as he challenged a new generation of Americans in his inaugural address to rededicate their efforts toward restoring domestic needs.
Borrowing many phrases and ideas from John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. the populist 46-year-old Clinton said, 'Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.'
Standing at the Capitol on a mild sunny winter day, Clinton said, 'Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time,' he said. 'My fellow citizens, this is our time. Let us embrace it.'
He added, 'So today, we pledge that the era of deadlock and drift is over -- a new season of American renewal has begun.'
In a reference to the passing Cold War generation embodied in his predecessor George Bush, Clinton, much in the same way Kennedy spoke of passing the torch to a new generation, said, 'Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the Cold War assumes new responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues.'
However, beyond committing America to 'lead' in foreign affairs, Clinton did little to define the nation's foreign policy posture in the post Cold War era.
'Today, as an old order passes, the new world is more free but less stable. Communism's collapse has called forth old animosities and new dangers. Clearly America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make.'
Though he mentioned troubles in Bosnia and Iraq, which occupied much of former President Bush's final days in office, Clinton gave no definition to the U.S. view toward the future.
In essense, he turned the camera on his victory, won at home amid discontent about the economy, the cities and health care. He laced his speech with lines showing him to be a 'new Democrat,' or perhaps a renewed one, calling for responsibility and sacrifice and declaring that the government bloat and special interests would be scaled back.
'Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs,' he said.
Clinton sought to wed domestic with foreign affairs, repeating a campaign theme that the nation will be stronger abroad if it is renewed and strong at home.
'To renew America, we must meet challenges abroad as well as at home. There is no clear division today between what is foreign and what is domestic -- the world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the world arms race affect us all,' he said.
Clinton, who has had a constructive relationship with the outgoing administration, thanked Bush for his years of service.
'On behalf of our nation, I salute my predecessor for his half- century of service to America, and thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over Depression, fascism, and communism,' he said.
Not surprisingly, the young president then launched into the shortcomings of the previous administration, though it seemed likely he was also referring to the neglect of the Reagan years he has previously condemned.
'Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy still the world's strongest, but weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our people,' he said.
'Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world, and the urgent question of our age is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy,' he said.
Clinton referred to the 1980s, during which the gap in class wages grew wider and many of the nation's domestic needs, he claimed, remained unmet.
'This new world hasalready enriched the lives of millions of Americans who are able to compete and win in it. But when most people are working harder for less; when others cannot work at all; when the cost of health care devastates millions and threatens to bankrupt many of our enterprises, great and small; when fear of crime robs law-abiding citizens of their freedom; and when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead -- we have not made change our friend.'
He added, 'We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps. But we have not done so. Instead, we have drifted, and that drifting has eroded our resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence.'
Next month, Clinton will outline his economic and domestic plans for the nation when he submits his first budget to Congress and delivers his maiden State of the Union address.
Then, he will have to struggle with priorities and fulfilling promises not to deepen the federal deficit but to cut it, to deliver health care and job training and the myriad other vows he made during the campaign.
But like his predecessors at their swearings-in, Clinton stressed the theme of renewal, responsibility and decency that he hopes will become the hallmark of his administration.
'And so,' he said, 'at the edge of the 21st century, let us begin with energy and hope, with faith and discipline, and let us work until our work is done. The scripture says, 'And let us not be weary in well- doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not.''
Borrowing from King's famous speech in which he declared that he had reached the 'mountain top,' Clinton said, 'From this joyful mountain top of celebration, we hear a call to service in the valley.'
He concluded, 'We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard. And now -- each in our own way, and with God's help -- we must answer the call.'