President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday, ushering in a new era of calm and comity to Washington after four divisive and tumultuous years under former President Donald Trump.
Standing at the Capitol just two weeks after a mob of insurrectionists invaded that building seeking to overturn the presidential election based on Trump’s lies about the results, Biden set out on the daunting task of uniting the nation by urging Americans to come together as they confront the deadly pandemic, an economic collapse that has left millions unemployed and deep divisions over issues of racial justice and police brutality.
“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this — bringing American people together, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said in his inaugural speech.
The former vice president, who decided to run for the White House after Trump’s shocking reaction to the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, noted that the nation is struggling through a rise of White nationalism, racism and deep political divisions.
“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path,” Biden said, calling on Americans to come together. “We have to be different than this. America has to be better than this.”
“I will be a president for all Americans,” Biden said speaking directly to those who did not support him in the November election. “I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as those who did.”
Moments earlier, he was sworn in with his hand on the Biden family Bible, which has a Celtic Cross on the cover and has been a family heirloom since 1893. The President-elect has used the Bible each time he has taken an oath of office, both as a senator from Delaware and as vice president.
Vice President Kamala Harris made history Wednesday when she was sworn in as the first female, the first Black and first South Asian vice president of the United States.
After a tumultuous year that began a new chapter of the civil rights movement as Americans took to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality after the death of George Floyd, the swearing in was a remarkable achievement for a country that has often struggled to live up to its ideals of equality for all.
Biden noted the historic nature of Harris’ swearing in during his speech.
“Here we stand looking out on the great Mall, where Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) spoke of his dream. Here we stand where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris,” Biden said.
Harris was sworn in on two Bibles — one that belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, one of her heroes who inspired her to pursue a career in the law, and that of Regina Shelton, a neighbor who cared for Harris and her sister Maya when they were growing up and attended church with her.
In soaring tones before a bipartisan audience — that symbolized a moment of democracy restored after the turmoil of recent weeks — Lady Gaga performed the National Anthem and Jennifer Lopez sang a medley of American musical selections including “This Land is your Land” and “America the Beautiful.”
Trump, who was the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend his successor’s swearing-in ceremony, arrived in Florida before Biden was sworn in. In Washington, more than 25,000 National Guard troops were in place to ensure that the nation’s transfer of power took place peacefully.
Unlike the former president, former Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol when it was stormed by Trump’s supporters earlier this month and presided over the certification of the election results, and former second lady Karen Pence attended the inauguration — walking out onto the inaugural stands to bipartisan applause. The incoming vice president and outgoing vice president and their spouses shared a laugh shortly before the Pences departed for private life.
Speaking at the ceremony as the nation’s first youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman recited a poem about bridging divides that she finished on the night that Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol.
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished,” Gorman said in the poem she read after Biden’s speech. “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
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