Americans are wont to look on the inauguration of a president as a new beginning. This is so even though there often is more continuity than discontinuity of policy in a change of administrations. We suspect this will be true in many ways as Ronald Wilson Reagan assumes the mantle of leadership. Yet the mood of a "fresh start" is something on which to capitalize. For it enables the President, by setting a tone of zestful purpose and confidence, to give the nation the moral and spiritural boost if so needs. Mr. Reagan has shown he is attuned to this need by his heartfelt inaugural call for "a new era of national renewal."
The American people yearn for such new impetus. They are not naive about the magnitude or the complexity of the challenges facing the country. They cannot expect quick reversals of problems that have defied easy solution by a succession of presidents. But they do look for that intangible quality of leadership which gives resolute, consistent direction to government and helps them to unite and work for the common good.
President Reagan has native attributes for good leadership, including a strong managerial ability. The hope is that he will be an effective manager of the executive branch, surrounding himself with competent aides, delegating detail to subordinates, maintaining effective lines of communication with Congress as well as with the executive departments. Mr. Reagan also possesses a geniality and an unself-conscious naturalness that warms people to him and should help him in the task of public persuasion.
But of course it takes more than administrative ability or affability to run the country. It takes thoughness of character and an inner strength that can face down the winds of adversity, opposition, and -- yes -- hostility, when these buffet the presidency as they often do. Mr. Reagan will soon discover the multitudinous conflicting pressures which are brought to bear on the office, even from within the federal bureaucracy, and he will have to have the courage and integrity to stand up to them even at the expense of displeasing people and inviting opposition. Not everyone can get what he wants from the White House if the President is to accomplish his economic goals. Will he take the political heat of saying "no" to special-interest groups, local politicians, lawmakers, when their causes are not deemed in the national interest? Will he be willing to alienate such supporters as, say, the Moral Majority or certin business groups if he disagrees with their demands? The President's promise to the people to do only what serves the general good suggests he understands the challenge. But it is certain to be tested.
As for the "new" Republican policies, it is not yet evident they will be all that new. Gradually being educated to realities on the wider national and world scene, Mr. Reagan already has pragmatically modified many of his earlier positions -- on tax cuts, balancing the budget, relation with China, arms control. And that is something to be welcomed, showing as it does certain bipartisan agreement on what needs to be done to address domestic and global problems. True, the Reagan foreign policy approach seems a tougher, more militant one because of concern about growing Soviet assertiveness. But we do not think this means the administration will be irresponsibly prone to military adventures or that it can long ignore the cries of the third world for attention to the urgent problems of energy, hunger, population growth -- and human rights -- which are bound to dominate the decades ahead. Nor do we think it can forget the cries of America's own disadvantaged groups, who still struggle for social justice and economic betterment. Certainly the President sought to give assurances of this in so pointedly reaching out to all Americans in his remarks yesterday in front of the Capitol.
In any case, it is largely the method and style of governance which Americans hope will make the Republican difference. The goals are clear -- revitalizing the economy, restoring a respect abroad for a firm, steady US leadership, upholding the integrity of government, and preserving the values of American society. President Reagan has gotten off to a good start with some solid appointments. He begins his formidable job with a strong popular mandate and an abundance of good will from Democrats and Republicans alike. With the prayers of his compatriots and God's help, he cannot fa il in purpose and accomplishment.