The inauguration of the President of the United States is an important day, one that all Americans should celebrate. It is a day when we can set aside our differences and celebrate the peaceful transition, or in this case the continuation, of presidential power.

On April 30, 1789 George Washington pronounced the words "so help me God" after taking the oath of office. The inaugural ball was subsequently held on May 7th. Since that time there have been several additions to the ceremony, but the theme remains the same: Americans coming together to watch their elected leader say the words that signify that we are truly the United States of America.

Each one of us should take this day to appreciate the privilege we have as U.S. citizens — to have a say in our government, to vote our conscience without fear of retaliation. This one day we should all rally around the President and express our best wishes for him. In doing so we are also expressing our best wishes for this country upon which we all rely.

Yes, this is a free country. Protestors are allowed — and should be allowed — to protest if that is their unfailing desire. It is doubtful that they will accomplish much, unless their ultimate goal is to show off their latest outerwear, hairdos and posters. They have nothing new to say. Few will care on Inauguration Day to hear it repeated.

Like estranged and angry members at an important family event (a wedding for example), wouldn't it be better for them and for the nation they claim to love to put aside their differences and to join, at least in a civil manner, in celebrating this great American experience?

Let us all extend to President Bush our very best wishes.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.