Joe Biden is now president of the United States, marking what was, for many Americans, a long national nightmare.
Biden took the oath of office as president of the United States shortly before noon Eastern time today in front of the U.S. Capitol, then delivered a stirring inaugural address calling for unity to address the COVID-19 pandemic, economic inequality, systemic racism, climate change, and the other challenges the nation faces.
He did not mention his predecessor, but some of his remarks appeared to be aimed at Donald Trump, as when Biden spoke of “lies told for power and for profit” and the need to “reject a culture in which facts are manufactured.”
Mostly, however, he emphasized unity. “My whole soul is in this — bringing America together, uniting our people,” he said. He promised, as he often has, to serve those who didn’t vote for him just as he serves those who did. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward,” he said, adding that “politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.”
But he did not downplay the problems confronting the nation and the world. He pledged that “the dream of racial justice will be deferred no longer” and that the forces of domestic terrorism and white supremacy will be defeated. The mob that stormed the capitol two weeks ago did not destroy the democratic process, he said, and the process will endure.
He celebrated the swearing-in of the first woman vice president, Kamala Harris, which took place moments before his own. He noted that it came on the same spot where women protesting for the right to vote were blocked more than 100 years ago. Harris is also the first Black vice president and first one of South Asian descent; she is of Jamaican and Indian heritage.
Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Harris by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The ceremony was also included appearances by Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez performing a medley of “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” and Garth Brooks singing “Amazing Grace.” Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, at 22 the youngest to appear at a presidential inauguration, read her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Gaga is bisexual and is the first out member of the LGBTQ+ community to perform the national anthem at an inauguration.
Trump, who has repeatedly contended that Biden did not actually win the election, did not attend the ceremony. Vice President Mike Pence did, as did former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.