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Bush Begins Second Term, Pledges to Spread Freedom


President Bush has begun his second term in office with a vow to promote freedom around the world.

It was a day of tradition and ceremony in Washington.

As the clock approached noon, the president put his hand on a family bible and repeated the oath of office.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, administered the oath on the West Front of the Capitol. Members of the U.S. Congress served as witnesses, along with a crowd of about 100,000 people gathered on the vast lawn that stretches from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

Military gunners fired their cannons as "Hail to the Chief" was played -- signaling the start of a new presidential term. To the cheers of his supporters and the applause of those who came just for a glimpse of history, George W. Bush moved to the podium to deliver his second inaugural address.

"I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed," he said.

The theme of the speech could be summed up in one word: freedom. The president said events over the last few years have shown freedom's power. "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom."

Mr. Bush said those who live in tyranny must know that the United States will not ignore their oppression, or excuse their oppressors. "We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," he said.

Mr. Bush did not mention any country by name - not even Iraq, where U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein and elections for a general assembly will be held in ten days.

Instead, the president spoke in philosophical terms about the need to promote freedom abroad, and liberty's true meaning for all Americans. "We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart," he said.

This was the first U.S. presidential inauguration since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, which President Bush referred to as a day of fire.

Security, always high for these big public events, was increased to unprecedented levels. Thousands of law enforcement officers and military personnel were on duty, major streets were closed to regular traffic, and anyone wanting to get close to inaugural events had to pass special checkpoints.

Police also kept watch on groups of anti-Bush protesters. Demonstrators gathered near the route of the Inaugural parade, chanting slogans and carrying signs. But by the time the president reached the reviewing stand by the White House, the noise that filled the air was the music of marching bands - including one from his home state of Texas.

The celebration continued late into the night with a series of lavish inaugural balls, including one special gala for American military personnel.

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