Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. took the oath of office during a solemn ceremony on Wednesday, January 20th as the 46th president of the United States, followed by a powerful inaugural address in which he emphasized the importance of democracy and unity.
Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, was administered the oath of office as the US Vice President becoming the first woman, Black person, and first Asian-American to serve in the position, on the same day as thousands attended the event in person and millions watched the ceremony online and social media.
President Biden gave his first presidential address to Americans on Wednesday in a star-studded Inauguration Day event that went unattended by his predecessor. Biden emphasized themes of unity and recovery in his inaugural address, saying, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”
Now that President Biden has taken office, he faces the reality of governing in the middle of a pandemic with narrow majorities in Congress and a lengthy list of policy goals. Biden unveiled a coronavirus road map on Thursday with 10 executive orders that focus on boosting vaccinations, wearing masks, testing and treatments. Biden signed a range of executive orders on Wednesday that include revoking a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, reversing a travel ban from several largely Muslim and African countries, and rejoining the Paris climate accord.
Biden’s call for unity bears significance in the aftermath of Capitol riots when his predecessor, Donald Trump, egged on his supporters to storm the Capitol building, leading to five deaths. In an apparent reference to the tumultuous period of transition, Biden said the country has learnt that democracy is “precious” and “fragile.”
In his remarks, Biden promised to help the nation heal, both from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well as from political rifts that had deepened considerably during the term of former President Donald Trump.
“Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause: the cause of democracy. The people — the will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,” Biden said. “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.”
Here are 10 memorable quotes from Biden’s speech:
- “This is America’s day, this is democracy’s day, the day of history and hope. Today we celebrate a triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause. We have learned again that democracy is precious democracy is fragile. At this hour my friends, Democracy has prevailed.”
- “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. I also know they are not new.”
- “Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonisation have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured.”
- “Through civil war to the Great Depression, World War, 9/11…our better angels have always prevailed. And each of these moments…enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward…we can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours…we can treat each other with dignity and respect”
- “For without unity, there’s no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only state of chaos…this is our historic moment of crisis and challenge…unity is the path forward.”
- “And today, we marked the swearing-in of the first woman in the American history elected to national office – vice president Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.”
- “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 of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.”
- “To all of those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably…is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength.”
- “Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and profit. Each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, especially as leaders … to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
- “Here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand. There are other days when we are called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another.
(Picture: Irish Times)