Issuing a call for unity, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday, telling a nation battered by a pandemic and the recent storming of the U.S. Capitol: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”
At a midday ceremony on a day that lacked much of the customary pomp and circumstance due to health and safety concerns, Mr. Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, repeating the oath of office on the west steps of the Capitol with his hand on a family Bible. The inauguration was attended by a relatively small, distanced audience, a contrast to the crowds that typically line the National Mall to celebrate a new administration.
“Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy,” Mr. Biden said before a crowd that included family and former presidents, but lacked former President Donald Trump, who opted to leave Washington ahead of the proceedings. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Kamala Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, making history as the first female vice president. The first Black woman and first of Indian descent nominated on a major party’s ticket, she becomes the highest-ranking woman ever in the presidential line of succession.
With his inaugural address, Mr. Biden asked a deeply divided country to look past their differences and sought to draw a contrast with former President Trump, who took a combative approach to politics in his four years in office and who spent the months since Election Day questioning the election’s outcome. Mr. Biden made no mention of his predecessor but sought to use the moment as an inflection point for the nation.
“Let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again,” Mr. Biden said, adding “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.”
“Without unity, there is no peace,” he said.
Referencing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob looking to stop certification of Mr. Biden’s win, Mr. Biden stressed that they did not succeed in disrupting democracy and declared: “It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
While Mr. Trump did not attend the inauguration, leaving Washington for Florida earlier in the morning, former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, did attend.
Mr. Biden asked those who opposed his candidacy during the contentious presidential election to give him a chance, pledging to be a president for all Americans. He also issued a call for truth and accuracy after the Capitol attack, which Mr. Trump had fueled with his unfounded claims that he had won the election, criticizing “lies told for power and for profit” and saying that “each of us has a duty and a responsibility” to defend truth.
He sought to put the moment in historical perspective, referencing Martin Luther King Jr. and the women’s suffrage movement as he celebrated Ms. Harris’s ascent to the vice presidency.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Mr. Biden said.
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