“The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” President Joe Biden said just after noon on the steps of the US Capitol, just after Chief Justice John Roberts swore him in as the 46th president of the United States.
The president’s inaugural address carried a message of unity, speaking of crises only in general terms but allowing a moment of silence in memory of the 400,000 Americans killed so far by Covid:
“History, faith, and reason show the way—the way of unity,” he said. “We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature; for without unity there is no peace—only bitterness and fury; no progress, only exhausting outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos.”
“We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation—one nation. And I promise you this: As the Bible says, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ We will get through this together—together.”
Mr Biden was joined on the podium by President Bill Clinton, President George W Bush, President Barack Obama, Vice President Mike Pence, and their wives, along with other dignitaries, and the youngest poet laureate in history: Amanda Gorman, 22, who read her poem titled “Climb the Hill.” Here’s a brief excerpt from her five and a half minutes on the stage:
… And no one should make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time,
Then victory won’t lighten the blade but in all the bridges we made,
That is the promise to glade,
The hill we climb.
If only we dare it because
Being American is more than a pride we inherit
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
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….
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow, we do it.
Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished
In addition to Mr Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female vice president in American history. She is also the first African-American woman and first South Asian woman to rise to the second-highest office in the republic.
She will serve as president of the Senate, which is now filled with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. She is expected to be busy casting tie-breaking votes during at least the next two years.
“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” Mr Biden said near the beginning of his speech, “much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.”