On the brink of a second term in turbulent times, US President George W. Bush begins Chapter Two of his presidency with a call "from beyond the stars" to stand steadfastly for the cause of freedom around the world.
The nation faces unsettling threats from terrorists and anxiety about the steady uptick of US deaths in Iraq. There are worries about Social Security's future and stress over the pricetag of medical care and a slow job market.
Inaugurations, though, are a time to talk about hope.
"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," Bush was telling inauguration watchers in this country and across the globe. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
More than a half million people gathered yesterday in the snowy capital in near-freezing temperatures for the swearing-in at the West Front of the Capitol and the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Snipers were dispatched to rooftops and bomb-sniffing dogs into the streets. Miles of metal barricades gave a fortress-like feel to the city.
Bush began Inauguration Day at a worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House. At noon, after placing his hand on a family Bible and reciting the 35-word oath of office, he was to become the US' 16th second-term president.
The event was to be witnessed by Bush's father, the former president George Bush, and his mother, Barbara Bush, along with a host of distinguished guests that included former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and their wives.
"The pride we feel this week is the same pride every parent feels when they see their son hit a home run or their daughter come home with straight A's," former president Bush, who lost a bid for re-election in 1992, said on Wednesday.
The younger Bush summed up his inaugural message with one word: "Freedom."
"This is a cause that unites our country and gives hope to the world," he said Wednesday evening just before red, white, blue and gold fireworks showered the dark sky over the National Mall.
Inauguration is a time of unity for our country, the president said.
"With the campaign behind us, Americans lift up our sights to the years ahead and to the great goals we will achieve for our country. I am eager and ready for the work ahead," he said.
Bush, 58, begins his new term with the lowest approval rating at that point of any recent two-term president -- 49 percent in an Associated Press poll this month. Iraq is the dominant concern of Americans, and Bush is the first US president to be inaugurated in wartime since Richard Nixon in 1973.
Bush's inaugural address had gone through 21 drafts as of Wednesday afternoon and was timed at 17 minutes. The address was designed to be inspirational, leaving new initiatives to be spelled out in Bush's State of the Union speech on Feb. 2.
On the eve of his inauguration, Bush and first lady Laura Bush dashed around the city from one party to another. Some revelers partied into the night, but Bush, never a fan of formal affairs, was back at the White House about 45 minutes ahead of schedule.
Not everybody was cheering four more years of Bush. Some anti-Bushites took vacations to get away from the inaugural hoopla while others flocked to Washington to give the president a symbolic snub. They planned to turn their backs on Bush as his motorcade rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue.