Democratic and Republican leaders, who had engaged in bitter legal and political battles over the virtual tie between Bush and Democrat Al Gore in the Nov. 7 election, called on Americans now to pull together behind the new president.
Bush, only the second son in U.S. history to follow his father to the White House, opened his first full day as president-elect with family, staff and friends at at the Tarrytown United Methodist Church in suburban Austin where several pastors compared the Texas governor to Moses.
"He was chosen by God as you have been chosen by God, to lead the people," Mark Craig, senior pastor at the Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas, told the congregation.
On Jan. 20, the Lone Star State governor will succeed President Clinton as the 43rd president, becoming the first son of a president to serve in the Oval Office since John Quincy Adams in 1825.
"I have a lot to be thankful for tonight. I am thankful for America and thankful that we are able to resolve our electoral differences in a peaceful way," Bush said in a national address Wednesday night from the chambers of the Texas House of Representatives in Austin, Tex.
"The presidency is more than an honor, more than an office. It is a charge to keep, and I will give it my all," said Bush.
Bush added, "I was not elected to serve one party but to serve one nation."
An hour before Bush's address, Gore conceded.
"I accept the finality of this outcome," said Gore in Washington, D.C. in his prime-time address to the nation Wednesday night from his ceremonial office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House.
Gore also talked of the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a divided vote Tuesday night effectively shut down the vice president's fight for ballot recounts in Florida - where Bush was certified the Sunshine State's winner by 537 votes.
"Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt," Gore said. "While I strongly disagree with the Court's position, I accept it."
Overall, Gore's tone was conciliatory as he urged his supporters to accept Bush as the next president.
"While we yet hold - and do not yield - our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president," Gore said.
Shortly before his speech, Gore called his rival to offer his congratulations - and Bush in his speech thanked Gore for his "gracious" call.
"We agreed to meet early next week in Washington and we agreed to do our best to heal our country after this hard fought contest," the president-elect said. Bush and Gore are to meet in Washington, D.C. next Tesday. The vice presidential candidates, Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman, will also meet next week.
Lieberman told reporters he called Cheney from his Senate office building Thursday morning.
"I congratulated him on the good campaign that he ran," Lieberman said. "I said that obviously I was disappointed to lose, but I have great respect for him and I look forward to working with him."
Traveling in England, Mr. Clinton urged Americans on Thursday to abandon the divisions of the post-election fight for the White House and unify behind Mr. Bush "without rancor and personal attack."
Mr. Clinton promised to do everything he could "in the days of service left to me" to help Bush get off to a good start.
In a joint statement, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill promised to "make every effort to work in a bipartisan way with the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress."
Senate Democratic leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri expressed disappointment about the U.S. Supreme Court decision, but said they had "deep respect" for Gore's decision to concede.
Other Democrats were less conciliatory.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., urged Democrats to abide by the Supreme Court decision, but said that "with every bone in my body and every ounce of moral strength in my soul" he disagreed with the high court. He called it "a willing tool of the Bush campaign" that "orchestrated a questionable 'velvet legal coup.'"
Without the Sunshine State's 25 electoral votes, neither Bush nor Gore had the votes in the Electoral College needed to become president. But with Florida, Bush reaches a total of 271 electoral votes - one more than the magic number of 270 - compared to Gore's 267. In the popular vote, Gore topped Bush by more than 300,000 ballots out of 103 million cast nationwide. Bush will be the first president since Benjamin Harrison 1888 to have lost the national popular vote but won in the Electoral College.
Republicans will control of the House, Senate, and White House for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower became president. But things will be tight: the GOP retained control of the House, barely, in the November elections; the Senate is split 50-50, with -elect as a tiebreaker; and the president-to-be has even intimated that he may select Democrats for his Cabinet.