Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden asserted that “democracy has prevailed” Wednesday after he was inaugurated the 46th president of the United States, calling for Americans to unite and confront the perilous challenges before them: a deadly coronavirus pandemic, economic turmoil and divisions over American leadership.
Biden takes the helm at a precarious moment in U.S. history, as the nation continues its struggle with a virus that has claimed more than 400,000 American lives. And he enters the White House amid fallout from a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, underscoring tensions in U.S. politics that Biden must navigate if he hopes to advance his ambitious agenda.
“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” Biden declared in his 21-minute inaugural address.
Standing on the steps of the Capitol, where rioters ransacked its hallowed halls just two weeks ago, Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts in an austere ceremony stripped of much of its pomp and circumstance due to the pandemic. The otherwise ceremonial peaceful transfer of power had the feel of a war zone, ringed by large security fences near the National Mall with more than 25,000 National Guard members called in over security concerns after the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
“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,” he continued. “We’ve learned again, that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Despite the absence of cheering supporters, Biden struck a hopeful tone throughout his first address as president, hitting on his campaign theme of unity and vowing his “whole soul” is invested in trying to bring people together. Touching on an idea often raised by past presidents but largely missing over the past four years, Biden pledged to be a “president for all Americans,” fighting as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as those who did.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue,” he said, “rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.”