George W. Bush?s burning vision for his version of ?freedom and democracy? around the globe has already profoundly affected the world. His zeal is undimmed says former Greendown School and Swindon College student Alex Ogle, who was commissioned to cover the swearing in of the 16th two-term president of the United States on 20 January, in the American capital for The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh student newspaper.
Though Bush?s first term officially ended at midday, he began his second term four minutes before noon in front of half a million people gathered in the bitter cold in front of the Capitol, stretching almost a mile away down the Mall to the Washington Monument.
As the first inauguration since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, miles of metal barricades enclosed the vicinity of the Capitol building. Snipers lined rooftops, and thousands of armed police and bomb-sniffing dogs were stationed around the surrounding snow-topped landscape.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol, Bush recited the 35 word inaugural oath that every president since George Washington has taken, following the frail-looking William Rehn-quist, 80, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rehnquist, who has been suffering from thyroid cancer was making his first public appearance in three months. Now fitted with an artificial larynx following a tracheotomy, every few words were interrupted by the sound of a respirator that reverberated around the Mall from a multitude of loudspeakers.
The loud rasping prompted one youngster in the crowd to comment that the arch-conservative judge, appointed by the Republican President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, sounded like the dark lord of the Star Wars fantasies, Darth Vader.
The president?s address focused on foreign policy and he made sweeping pledges for a greater role for the United States around the globe.
"The best hope for peace ? is the expansion of freedom in all the world ? we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave."
In the crowd Dave Whitt, who works at the Pentagon, was inspired by Bush?s words. "It is what I was expecting him to say. However, although it is good to say these things, it is much harder to do than say. It is the challenge to make it happen."
Whitt said he appreciated the president?s continual references to God, and the reaffirmation of God?s place in the legacy of the United States: "From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and Earth."
Iraq was not mentioned, but Bush implied a response to critics of his administration?s foreign policy. "Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty … though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt."
Maria Braechel, a student in Washington D.C., complained about what she believed were inconsistencies in the speech. "He is really just contradicting himself when he is talking about freedom, because he has been taking freedom away from all Americans and others around the world.
"I go to school here in D.C., and the public schools are terrible. The U.S. is falling apart, and he is talking about ?prosperity??"
There were no major crowd disturbances as Bush spoke. The few people who had brought signs held them up to steely-eyed stares from the president?s supporters. Keith Nelson from Washington simply wandered silently in and out of the crowd, holding aloft a placard that read: ?Same old Cold War oil-dependent logic.?
The president cited Lincoln, drawing upon the words of the 16th president of the United States, who made his first inaugural speech 144 years ago.
"The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did," Bush said. "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
"By our efforts, we have lit a fire ? a fire in the minds of men." "It warms those who feel its power. It burns those who fight its progress. And one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
Observers outside America will either feel assured by the righteous proclamations, or fear what is to come.