romising to heal the wounds of a nation in crisis, Joe Biden on Wednesday was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America. Addressing the country from its heavily fortified Capitol, Biden urged a fresh start after four years of turmoil under Donald Trump, who broke with more than a century of precedent in refusing to oversee the peaceful transfer of power to his successor.
“We will be judged, you and I, by how we will resolve these cascading crises of our era,” Biden told the scaled-down crowd in a sober but optimistic inaugural address, as a light snow fell over Washington and a chilly breeze blew through the field of flags honoring those lost to the pandemic. “Will we master this rare and difficult hour? I believe we must. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America.”
Biden and Kamala Harris, who has made history as the first woman and first woman of color to become vice president, took their oaths of office at a time of extraordinary tumult in American history: The country is in the throes of a rampaging pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 in the U.S. and taken a sledgehammer to the economy. It is in the midst of a reckoning on racism and other longstanding systemic inequalities. And it is fighting something of a cold civil war, which just two weeks before Inauguration Day erupted into a violent siege on the Capitol, triggering an unprecedented second impeachment for the now-former president who incited the attack.
Speaking to the nation Wednesday, during a swearing-in ceremony modified by the pandemic and heightened security following the January 6 insurrection, Biden delivered a paean to decency and unity, issued a defense of truth over lies, and vowed to turn the page on this ugly chapter in U.S. history. “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,” Biden said. “We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
“America has been tested,” Biden said, “and we’ve come out stronger for it.”
For the 78-year-old Biden, the swearing-in Wednesday marked the culmination of a storied career in politics, which included two unsuccessful runs for president before he finally won election in November. His decisive victory followed a dramatic White House race that was reshaped by the pandemic and the racial justice protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd. Biden and Harris called for national unity after the campaign, but Trump refused to concede and spent two months desperately trying to hang on to power. His autocratic efforts to remain in office resulted in this month’s deadly attack as lawmakers certified Biden’s victory. That insurrection loomed over Wednesday’s inauguration, a hallmark of American democracy, but the ceremony was ultimately an orderly, upbeat affair. Indeed, history dominated the day, particularly as Harris shattered one of the highest barriers in American politics and became the first woman and first Black or South Asian American to ascend to the second highest office in the land. Her swearing-in was an extraordinary and long overdue moment, the emotion and gravity of which hung thick in the air as she was administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said in his inaugural address, referring to the history made by Harris, who was escorted to the inauguration by Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who helped prevent tragedy by leading pro-Trump rioters away from the Senate chamber January 6.
And so begins a new day in America. Biden will immediately begin working to restore American leadership, including with an immediate flurry of day one executive actions to reverse some of his predecessor’s most toxic and damaging policies, and to bring together a nation that has been cleaved apart by the politics of polarization over the past five years. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” Biden said Wednesday. “We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
Such rifts won’t be healed easily. But for millions of Americans, and for allies around the world who have yearned for the country to return to its leadership position on the international stage, Wednesday brought something that has been missing in the U.S. for some time now: hope. “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days,” Biden said. “I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.” But, he said, “we’re gonna need each other” to get through this “winter of peril and significant possibilities.” “We can do that now,” Biden said. “Let’s start afresh.”
Credit – vanityfair.com