Saying a new breeze of freedom is blowing in the world, George Herbert Walker Bush began his push for a kinder, gentler nation Friday as he took the oath of office as the 41st president of the United States.

His wife, Barbara, held two Bibles for him to swear the oath upon, their family Bible and the same Bible that George Washington used in the first inauguration 200 years ago. Chief Justice William Rhenquist administered the oath.Bush shunned the formal, black-tie clothing that most of his recent predecessors wore at inaugurations and appeared in a simple business suit - a move that Steve Studdert, the Utahn who headed Bush's inaugural committee, said was a gesture to reinforce his "common man" ideals.

His inaugural speech also stressed such themes, and called for a more moral America to use strong will to overcome problems with poverty, drugs and the budget deficit - but to still remain strong to defend freedom worldwide. (See excerpts on A2.)

"I do not mistrust the future; I do not fear what is ahead. For our problems are large, but our heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And if our laws are endless, God's love is truly boundless," he said.

His first act as president was to offer a prayer at the opening of his speech. "Make us strong to do your work," he prayed to God.

"If the man you have chosen to lead this government can help to make a difference; if he can celebrate the quieter, deeper successes that are made not of gold and silk, but of better hearts and finer souls; if he can do these things, then he must.

"America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral purpose. We as a people hve such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world," he said.

"We will turn to the only resource we have that in times of need always grows: the goodness and courage of the American people."

He added calls to eliminate the budget deficit and to keep America's defenses strong.

On an cool, overcast day that was still so springlike that crocuses were breaking ground, the bicentennial of inaugurations was celebrated with a backdrop of American flags from 1789 and 1889 beside the 1989 version, and with bunting similar to that which adorned Federal Hall for Washington's first inauguration.

A crowd estimated at 140,000 looked on from the Capitol grounds _ including ambassadors, congressmen, Republican Party faithful and thousands of people with no formal titles. Bush's mother was there, as were all his children and grandchildren.

Bush had also extended special invitations to top leaders of churches in America, and two officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted.

President Ezra Taft Benson and his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, were seated in a VIP section on the stand.

Also, those who arrived early to the swearing-in ceremony were serenaded with patriotic and religious prelude music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir _ which had to leave the stand before the actual ceremony began.

The Utahn who probably had the best seat at the inauguration was Studdert, who sat just a few rows behind Bush.

Other Utahns at the ceremony included all of Utah's congressional delegation, Gov. Norm Bangerter and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.

Vice President Dan Quayle took the oath of office before Bush, which is traditional. That oath was administered by Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The Bushes and Quayles began the day Friday at a private worship service at St. John's Church near the White House.

In the afternoon, they reviewed the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House from a booth at the end of the route.

Utah's entry in the parade was "Cloggers USA," a group of dancers aged 6 to 25 from the Spanish Fork area. They marched in patriotic red, white and blue uniforms behind the Great Seal of the State of Utah.

Each state had at least one official entry in the parade, chosen by Bush's inaugural committee. The parade also had national representatives, which included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "It really is considered America's choir and represents church members worldwide," Studdert said.

The choir was the last entry in the parade. Its 320 members were seated in rows of eight on a 100-foot-long float decorated in blue and white, including a replica of the Tabernacle organ.

The choir also was the finale of the festive Presidential Gala that aired live on CBS on Thursday night.

The choir, facing all directions to an in-the-round audience in the Wshington Convention Center, sang "So Many Voices Sing America," accompanying White Eagle, an operatic tenor from the Souix Indian tribe.

The choir is scheduled to sing at more inaugural events on Saturday and Sunday and has constantly been rushing to rehearsals and sound checks all week.