Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, vowing to end the ‘uncivil war’ in a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
Joe Biden took the oath of office administered by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts that binds the president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downtown, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.
“Democracy has prevailed”
Speaking shortly after taking oath as the 46th President of the United States, 78-year-old Biden also pledged to repair America’s global alliances, which suffered during his predecessor Donald Trump’s four-year regime.
“Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy…At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” said Biden, apparently referring to Trump’s efforts to deny him victory in the November 3 election won by him.
US President Joe Biden with his running mate and now Vice President of US Kamala Harris. (Photo: AP)
Biden, became the oldest U.S. president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus and security concerns following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
“Will repair our alliances”
In his speech that lasted for 21 minutes, Biden praised Americans for rising to the challenge and reclaiming democracy. “America has been tested, and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.
“We’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security,” Biden said in his message to the international community.
“Unity is the path forward”
“With unity we can do great things,” he said referring to the challenges ahead of him from fighting the coronavirus to addressing racial injustice.
“Unity is the path forward,” he asserted, laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation.
Biden asserted that he will be the president for all Americans, all those who voted for him and those who did not vote for him. Biden also criticised those who have stoked anger and division, and asked those who opposed him to “hear me out.”
He called out those who lie for political power and profit. “There is truth, and there are lies,” he added.
Biden criticizes Capitol Hill violence
The ceremony on Wednesday unfolded in front of a heavily fortified U.S. Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that the election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes.
“Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work on our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground,” Biden said. “It did not happen; it will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
After a bitter campaign marked by Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud, Biden struck a conciliatory tone, asking Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance to be their president as well.
“To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” he said. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this – if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
Inauguration held under watch of 25,000 National Guards
The inauguration was held under the watch of more than 25,000 National Guards, who have transformed the capital into a garrison city, mainly because of the threat of more violent protests by the supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, who became the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson in 1869.
Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, attended Biden’s inauguration, along with former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)