There was a fresh blanket of snow in Washington, as President Bush left the White House on a busy inauguration eve.
As trumpets played a traditional salute, the president arrived at an adjacent park for an outdoor concert on a frigid night. The event was supposed to last two hours, but was compressed to one because of the cold. All the same, the applause for the performers was warm as the sound of their voices filled the air.
The president picked up the theme (of the song God Bless America) in his remarks, offering his own prayer for the country and for those serving in the U.S. military far from home.
President Bush said, "We pray for our troops, we pray for their families. And on this night, as we celebrate the blessing of liberty, America honors the spirit of service that keeps our nation strong and free."
This is the first U.S. presidential inauguration since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, and it comes at a time when large numbers of American troops are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In his remarks at the outdoor concert, the president reflected briefly on how much the world has changed since he first took the oath of office four years ago. He said the focus now must be on moving forward.
President Bush said, "I am eager and ready for the work ahead (cheers). And I know that this office carries a duty to the entire nation. After all, we are one America."
Mr. Bush said a presidential inauguration is an event steeped in tradition that looks to the future, a time of hope and renewal. He said the theme of his inaugural address will be the cause that unites all Americans: promoting freedom.
Mr. Bush said,"We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom. And America will always be faithful to that cause."
Aides say the president will speak about the power of freedom in broad philosophical terms, and will save any talk of detailed policies and proposals for his upcoming State of the Union Address to Congress and the nation.
Thousands are expected to pack the vast lawn that stretches from the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument to see the president take the oath of office for a second term. Security will be unprecedented for the inaugural festivities - from the mid-day ceremony at the Capitol Building, to the inaugural parade, to the gala celebrations that are expected to go long into the night.