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Obama: Inauguration a new start for U.S.

- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

UPDATED:

President-elect Barack Obama said Saturday his inauguration holds "the promise of a new beginning" for America and offers the nation a chance to reaffirm its fundamental values.

In his weekly radio address Mr. Obama, who will be sworn in as the 44th president on Tuesday, said the peaceful transfer of power from one president to another is the envy of many in the world, and a sign the nation remains strong.

"Through the long twilight struggle of the Cold War, our transitions from one president to the next provided a stark contrast to the suffocating grip of Soviet Communism," he said. "And today, the resilience of our democracy stands in opposition to the extremists who would tear it down."

Seeking to keep his millions of supporters involved as he takes office, Mr. Obama's presidential campaign on Saturday sent an e-mail to them telling them they have been enlisted in a citizen army called Organizing for America to try to bolster his political agenda.

"Joe Biden and I will be working with Congress to bring about change in Washington. But we cannot do this without you. The change weve worked so hard for will not happen unless ordinary Americans get involved, and supporters like you must lead the way," Mr. Obama said in a video announcement.

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His campaign said the new organization will be partners with the Democratic National Committee, and an aide said it will be housed at the DNC's offices. The campaign wouldn't say whether that means Mr. Obama's sought-after list of 13 million e-mail supporters will also go to the DNC, but the housing arrangement makes that likely.

Democrats could use the lists to raise money for candidates and the party, and to mobilize them to contact lawmakers when Mr. Obama is pushing for Congress to pass parts of his agenda.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who Mr. Obama has tapped to be chairman of the DNC, said he will use Mr. Obama's network to support the incoming president.

"Change doesn't come easy — our work has just begun," Mr. Kaine said.

After the election Mr. Obama's campaign sent out surveys to supporters and held small-group meetings with some to plot how best to use his network. The campaign said more than 500,000 surveys were returned, and most said they wanted a way to support Mr. Obama when he's in office.

Mr. Obama takes office with high expectations he will be a fundamental change from President Bush, who leaves after eight years with tremendously low approval ratings and with a series of difficulties having happened on his watch: a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, two wars, Hurricane Katrina, two recessions and two corporate governance crises.

The president-elect praised Mr. Bush for helping with a smooth transition of power, and recalled George Washington taking the first presidential oath of office in 1789.

"Since then, Inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace; in Depression and prosperity. Our democracy has undergone many changes, and our people have taken many steps in pursuit of a more perfect union. What has always endured is this peaceful and orderly transition of power," Mr. Obama said.

He recorded the address this week and released it at 6 a.m.

In his parting radio address Mr. Bush said Mr. Obama's inauguration is a continuation of the "simple dream of dignity" he spoke about in his own 2001 inauguration.

Mr. Bush cautioned Americans to think of the world in terms of good and evil and not to be afraid to take sides in battle between the two.

"Good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise," he said, reprising part of his farewell address from Thursday night.

Mr. Bush has continued the tradition of delivering a radio address every week, which is usually taped late in the work week and released on an embargoed basis to be broadcast just after 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings.

At times he has used the address to make policy, and has occasionally deviated from the taped format to deliver a live address, such as on Dec. 17, 2005, when he spoke live from the Oval Office to call for renewal of the Patriot Act.

In signing off Saturday morning, Mr. Bush said he looks forward to returning to Texas on Tuesday.

"I will depart office proud of my Administration's record. And I will spend the rest of my life grateful for the opportunity to have served as President of the greatest nation on Earth."

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