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He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat; Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!

For some, the high point was Jimmy Carter’s unexpected thank-you to Gerald Ford “for all he has done to heal our land.” For others, it was Carter’s unprecedented stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House after he was sworn in. But for many, the most memorable—and symbolic—moment came when a black choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic in honor of a Southern President.

A century of Southern estrangement from the nation was over. A remarkable political journey—one that led in only two years from the red clay fields of south Georgia to America’s highest office—was at an end. Jimmy Carter, at 52, was the 39th President of the United States.

Few seemed less awed by the transformation than Carter himself. With Rosalynn and nine-year-old Amy in tow, he strolled like a tourist up the driveway to his new home. “Where do I live?” he asked White House Chief Usher Rex Scouten. Scouten promptly led the family upstairs to the presidential quarters that had only that morning been vacated by the Fords.

Someone had asked Carter the night before his swearing-in if he were nervous about becoming President. “No,” he answered after a moment’s reflection. “I’m sorry, but I’m not.” He plunged immediately and vigorously into his work. Within a day he had issued his first Executive order, pardoning all Viet Nam-era draft evaders who were not involved in violent antiwar acts (see story page 15). He also issued a statement urging Americans to save energy by turning down their thermostats to 65° F. in the daytime and even lower at night. Carter found time to select the desk he will use in the Oval Office: made of oak timbers from the British ship Resolute, and a present to President Rutherford Hayes from Queen Victoria, it was last used by John Kennedy.

This week Carter’s Cabinet meets for the first time. The new President will probably also attend some of the first daily 8 a.m. staff meetings, to be presided over by White House Counsel Robert Lipshutz. High on the agenda: domestically, Carter’s plans to reorganize the Executive Branch, reform welfare and stimulate the economy; in foreign affairs, a review of the negotiations over a new Panama Canal treaty and arms talks with the Soviets.

Carter’s first acts as President came against the background of a notably subdued Inaugural Address. Even many of his supporters found it disappointing. It was more effective when read than when heard in Carter’s singsong cadence. It contained no calls to glory, no “finest hour” rhetoric. Carter took a rather humble stance toward the American people and the rest of the world. His pledge to liberty (“We can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere”) provided a marked contrast to John Kennedy’s ringing “We shall bear any burden” of another age. The speech offered some typical Carterian balances: warnings that we cannot do everything and exhortations that we must try to do nearly everything. Carter said he wants to be remembered as a President who furthered racial equality, helped provide jobs for everyone, and strengthened the American family. But he also said that “we can neither answer all questions nor solve all problems.” He held out the startling vision of total nuclear disarmament, or at least a first step toward it. He was alluding to the signing of a new strategic arms limitation agreement with the U.S.S.R. Two days earlier, in a speech plainly aimed at the new American leader, Soviet Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev also gave top priority to a new pact before the SALT Ι treaty expires in October. Said Brezhnev: “Time will not wait.”

But Carter also pledged to maintain military strength “so sufficient that it need not be proven in combat.” These “yes, but” formulations can be irritating, suggesting an attempt to have it both ways. But they may be closer to complex reality than simpler, more one-sided assertions. Typical of the Carter approach was his statement that he had no new American dream to offer, but wanted the old dream renewed, that Americans must adjust to changing times but cling to unchanging principles.

That last thought he attributed to his high school teacher in Plains, Julia Coleman, who encouraged his interest in literature, art and music and who died in 1973. Immediately after Miss Coleman in the speech came Micah (few other American politicians would hazard such a juxtaposition), an Old Testament prophet who lived during the Assyrian conquest of Israel in the 8th century B.C. and thundered against moral evils (notably the rapacity of “land grabbers,” the injustice of rulers and the smug belief that Yahweh would take care of everything). It was, on balance, a strongly religious speech—too simply pietistic perhaps. But it was also an accurate expression of Carter’s faith—a faith shared by a great many Americans.

Carter had finished polishing his Inaugural Address only a couple of days earlier, working in longhand and with a typewriter at the large desk in the study of his ranch-style house in Plains. Speechwriter Patrick Anderson had written the first version, but Carter wrote at least three more drafts, sometimes spreading the paragraphs out like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and Scotch-taping them into a new arrangement. In the final version, Anderson said, he recognized “only a few sentences here and there” of his own work.

Carter had consulted with Rosalynn on the clothing, books and toys that would go to Washington. He helped load the boxes and Amy’s doll house aboard a rented truck that was driven north by one of Brother Billy’s warehouse employees, with a Secret Service escort. Before the truck reached the Plains town line, an urgent radio message summoned it back: Amy’s bicycle had somehow been forgotten and had to be picked up.

On his last day in Plains, Carter rose at 6:30 a.m. and gazed upon the dusting of snow and ice on the pine trees—the first in his octogenarian Uncle Alton’s memory. While Rosalynn scrambled eggs and cheese, Jimmy fried the breakfast ham. Shortly before noon, he shut off the water and electricity, turned down the thermostat, and left the house in the care of a maid and the Secret Service. At the train depot, the Carters waved goodbye to the 18-car Peanut Special.

About two hours later, the Carters left the old life for good. With Amy cradling her cat, Misty Malarkey Ying Yang, and Jimmy carrying his own bags as usual, they boarded a chartered airliner at Albany, Ga. Carter told newsmen, “I think I’m ready now to be President. If I can stay close to the people of this country and not disappoint them, I think I have a chance to be a great President, but it still remains to be seen.”

As he got off the plane in Washington, Carter carried his bags again, but the transformation had already begun. At the Kennedy Center that night, the audience—in evening dress—stood to applaud as the Carter family entered, Jimmy in a subdued black tuxedo and ruffled shirt, Rosalynn in a long red skirt and black blouse, and Amy in a red juniper. With pleased grins, they settled into the plush seats of the presidential box for the glittering, 2½-hr. 1977 New Spirit Inaugural Concert.

Shirley MacLaine, who kicked off the show, sang a new version of Cy Coleman’s It’s Not Where You Start (the last lines: “It’s where you finish/ And you’ve finished on top”). Leonard Bernstein conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in his composition If Ever Man Were Loved by Wife, which he dedicated to Rosalynn. James Dickey recited a new poem, describing Carter as a mythic hero drawing strength from a walk in the Plains countryside on a summer’s night. Sample lines: “Lord, let me shake/ With purpose. Wild hope can always spring/ From tended strength. Everything is in that.”

John Wayne sidled up to the microphone and drawled, “I am considered a member of the opposition —the loyal opposition, accent the loyal. I’d have it no other way.” Carter acknowledged the rapport by throwing Wayne a highball salute. For their second appearance together in 17 years, Mike Nichols and Elaine May did a routine about the first Jewish President. Phoned by his mother and scolded for not having called her, “President” Nichols pleads: “Mother, I was choosing a Cabinet. I didn’t have a second.” Retorts “Mother” May: “It’s always something.” Afterward, Miss Lillian insisted: “I’m not that kind of mother.”

Other high spots: the dancing of the Alvin Ailey group, the trilling of Beverly Sills and Clamma Dale, the whole audience standing and clapping along with Aretha Franklin.

Later Jimmy and Rosalynn dropped in at the post-concert dinner for the performers and made political groupies out of many superstars of the entertainment world. “Oh, I want so much to shake his hand,” sighed Bette Davis, patting her hand over her heart. Hugged by Carter, she left beaming.

Inauguration Day, crisp and clear, began with a moving 8 a.m. religious service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 10,000 people sang Carter’s favorite hymn, Amazing Grace, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., bundled up in a heavy black overcoat and brown hat, praised Carter for not forgetting the little people. According to an aide, the Carters skipped that ceremony to keep it from “turning into a circus,” and worshiped instead at Washington’s First Baptist Church.

Later in the morning, the gleaming white Inaugural platform in front of the Capitol was crowded with family members, Supreme Court Justices and congressional leaders. Television microphones picked up some of the dignitaries’ chitchat about what they had done to ward off the cold. Cracked Senator Hubert Humphrey: “I’ve got my Minnesota thermal underwear on.”

Some 100,000 shivering people had thronged onto the lawn and into the makeshift bleachers. The Marine Band played the Navy Hymn in Carter’s honor, and Walter Mondale was sworn in as Vice President by—at his own request —House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Then came Carter’s turn. “Are you ready to take the oath of office?” Chief Justice Warren Burger asked him at precisely 12:03 p.m. No man had ever been readier. While Rosalynn held the family Bible, Carter placed his hand on it; in front of him was the Bible used for George Washington’s swearing-in, open to the verse from the prophet Micah that Carter quoted moments later in his Inaugural Address. “Congratulations,” murmured Burger after the oath. “Thank you,” whispered Carter. The Marine Band struck up Hail to the Chief, Army troops fired 75-mm. howitzers from the Ellipse just off Capitol Hill in the traditional 21-gun salute, and Jimmy Carter was President.

Not everyone adjusted at once to the transformation. Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s longtime aide, allowed as how it would be difficult to go from calling him Jimmy to the more formal Mr. President. After the Inaugural speech, Miss Lillian protested, “I don’t like it. I don’t like everybody calling him Mr. President.” To set his family at ease, Carter, in a private moment in a room in the Capitol a few minutes after the swearing-in, asked if they had ever seen his 18-month-old grandson Jason imitate him. “Come on, Jason, smile like Jimmy,” he coaxed. Jason obliged with a toothy, if tiny smile.

Following a post-Inauguration lunch in a Senate office, Carter walked with Rosalynn (and part of the way with Amy as well) down Pennsylvania Avenue, leading the Inaugural parade—a mile-and-a-half stroll on a crystalline but subfreezing day. Four years earlier, fruit and garbage had been thrown at the limousine that carried Nixon down the same avenue.

It is uncertain whether Carter can maintain this open, folksy style under steady exposure to the imperial lures of the presidency. But the estimated 250,000 people standing along Pennsylvania Avenue had never seen anything like it before, and they cheered and applauded enthusiastically. Indeed, the entire Inaugural celebration marked a sharp departure in style from the past, though the festivities did not entirely live up to their advance billing as a “people’s Inauguration.”

Warmed by a solar heating system on the reviewing stand, Carter and his party watched a two-hour parade of 170 floats, bands and marching groups. Later, the Carters were plainly eager to get through the evening’s festivities as fast as possible. Holding hands, they made a whirlwind round of all seven Inaugural parties, all packed tight with celebrators (“a can of sardines,” complained Vice President Mondale at one point).

At each party the President engaged in some of the camp-meeting rhetoric that he used to good effect during the campaign. “How many of you think this is the greatest country on earth?” he asked the crowds, which responded with roars of approval. Then, gesturing at his wife’s blue satin gown, which she had worn six years ago at his inauguration as Governor of Georgia, Carter asked: “How do you like Rosalynn’s old dress?” Again the revelers cheered. The Carters did not actually dance until their second stop, the Mayflower Hotel, where they stepped out cheek-to-cheek to the strains of The Last Waltz. Before 1 a.m., about an hour ahead of schedule, they were back at the White House.

The Carters arose early the next morning to begin two days of receptions. The first was for about 1,000 people who had put up one or another of the Carters overnight during his campaign. Each received a bronze plaque engraved with this message: A MEMBER OF THE JIMMY CARTER FAMILY STAYED IN THIS HOUSE DURING THE 1976 CAMPAIGN. “These are kinfolk,” Carter said with a smile. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

As Carter was sharing cookies, coffeecake and fruit juice with his guests, his aides were getting down to business and rinding that they had little time to deal with many mundane but still important housekeeping chores—obtaining White House passes and parking places, and learning their way through the maze of corridors. Most offices were in need of a thorough cleaning and repainting, but Carter staffers seemed to be in no hurry to get their quarters redecorated. That would be considered bad form—out of keeping with the egalitarian spirit that Carter is trying to bring to the White House.

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