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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 11:38 GMT
Eyewitness: US inauguration
John Rakolta Jnr
Rakolta believes Bush is widely underestimated
John Rakolta Jnr is a Republican party donor and the head of a Detroit-based construction firm called Walbridge Aldinger.

A veteran of inauguration day pomp and ceremony, this week Mr Rakolta travelled to Washington DC for George W Bush's second inauguration as US president.

As the crowds drifted away and the glittering balls wound down for four more years, Mr Rakolta spoke to the BBC News website about his inauguration day experiences.

There was sense of history in Washington this week. I didn't come here for the party: I came because I believe in this country, because it's the greatest country on earth.

Laura and George Bush at the Freedom Ball
The first couple made an appearance at the Freedom Ball
Washington on inauguration day is full of dignitaries and police escorts, with roads closed down all over the place. Just moving a mile around town is very difficult.

The day started out with the swearing-in. I'm not sure how big the crowd was, but they said it was about 500,000 and of course the security was something to behold.

Security was much higher today than for previous inaugurations. I got a look at the new Cadillac limousine for the first time. It was rather imposing, like a presidential armoured personnel carrier.

I'm not going to shy away from a terrorist threat or a perceived terrorist threat

But the security doesn't worry me. We as Americans are so used to going through the checkpoints now, at airports they check you over and get you down to your shirt and shoes, we're conditioned to doing it.

My wife did ask me before I left whether I really wanted to go this time. But I'm not going to let someone elsewhere in the world set my agenda. I'm not going to shy away from a terrorist threat or a perceived terrorist threat.

We cherish the idea of freedom in our country to a very large degree, all the way from having control of your own money to having the ability to say whatever you want.

Intellect and vision

What I think the president did was to take that on a notch, talking about the right of people around the world to have these freedoms.

Cheering crowds at the Freedom Ball
The president gets an enthusiastic reception at the Freedom Ball
That's something that makes me very proud of being an American citizen, the fact that we are the largest and oldest democracy in the world. We feel very strongly about that and our place in the world.

In the evening, after the inauguration was over, I attended two balls, the Freedom Ball and the Michigan State Society Ball.

Just after I arrived at the Freedom Ball the president showed up. He thanked many of the people there for helping with this election, and thanked everybody for their involvement.

I like to think that I'm more than just a donor, that my voice is heard on policy and in the direction of the country.

I've met the president personally and I'm very impressed with his command of the subject matter he deals with, with the way he talks about foreign affairs.

This president tries to do the right thing, and that to the rest of the world appears to be the stubborn thing or the America-only way
But the thing I love the most is that he is a man of strong conviction and a real man of character. People gravely underestimate his intellect and vision. I've been around him several times without TV cameras around, and I'd like the entire world to have the chance to see him in that light.

The Michigan State Society Ball is a big bipartisan ball. In Michigan we have a history of Democrats and Republicans celebrating the inauguration together.

Pressing issues

In any case, I think you'll find a much more bipartisan line in the second term.

There are very difficult problems that face the world today that require solutions that are hard to implement.

Most of the world likes to take the easy way out. This president tries to do the right thing, and that to the rest of the world appears to be the stubborn thing or the America-only way.

But when you look at the history of World War II you see how history keeps on repeating itself if people put their heads in the sand and don't' deal with the issues of today.

If the rest of the world wants to they can put these issues aside. It's unfortunate we're not seen in a better light but there's no greater country than America and no country more interested in the pressing issues facing our world.


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