Joe Biden delivered his powerful first remarks since becoming the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden addressed the country in a moving speech about unity during his historic inauguration.
Biden was sworn in by the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just before noon. He took the oath with an emotional Dr. Biden by his side, holding a 127-year-old family Bible. “This is America’s day,” President Biden said as he began his Inaugural Address. “This is democracy’s day.” He went on to speak about the challenges facing the country and the new dawn that would begin with his administration. “We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends: Democracy has prevailed!” he declared. His speech was an impactful address to a country struggling on several fronts. The inauguration was scaled down due to a raging coronavirus pandemic that’s claimed more than 400,000 American lives. And security during the events was heightened two weeks after insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the very spot where Biden and Harris took their oaths of office.
The nation’s divide, which Biden acknowledged in his address, could also be felt during the inauguration itself. For the first time in modern history, the outgoing President Trump and his family skipped the inauguration amid a stilted transfer of power. In the last few months alone, Trump has refused to concede, been impeached for a second time, and refused to meet with the incoming Bidens, which is decades-old protocol for presidents. Biden addressed the nation’s tension, explaining, “We must end this uncivil war that pitches red versus blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” He also led a moment of silence for the American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Biden’s inauguration, themed “America United,” was attended by every other living president outside of 96-year-old Jimmy Carter. Later today, Biden and Harris (alongside their spouses) will lay a wreath atop the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony. They’ll be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton.
Biden, age 78, makes history as the oldest person to ever be elected as president. His road to commander-in-chief was long and winding and included two failed presidential campaigns and two terms as Obama’s vice president. Prior to his presidential bids, Biden spent decades in the U.S. Senate after first being elected in 1972. He was elected president 48 years to the day after winning his first Senate election, receiving the most votes ever cast for a U.S. presidential ticket.
Biden’s first presidential speech, in many ways, echoes his first address as president-elect in Wilmington, Delaware. “This is a time to heal in America,” he said at the time. “Now this campaign is over. What is the will of the people? What is our mandate? I believe it’s this: Americans have called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science, and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family’s healthcare. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. The battle to save our planet by getting the climate under control. The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, to give everybody in this country a fair shot.”
This post will be updated with the complete speech transcript.
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