President Biden takes office, moving quickly to implement agenda

Biden’s inauguration address 22:16

In his 21-minute inauguration address, President Biden outlined an optimistic view of the future, and called for Americans to unify around common goals.

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day,” Mr. Biden said. “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.”

Noting that he was being inaugurated on the Capitol steps just two weeks after it was stormed by a “riotous mob,” Mr. Biden said that the country had learned that “democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

“This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far. And we still have far to go. 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.

The president thanked his “predecessors of both parties for their presence here today,” although his immediate predecessor Mr. Trump was absent.

Mr. Biden highlighted the struggles that the country must still overcome, including the coronavirus pandemic, domestic terrorism, white supremacy and racial injustice.

“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. Unity,” he said. He quoted President Abraham Lincoln, whose “whole soul” was dedicated to “bringing America together.” 

“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that it may seem difficult to achieve unity in such a divided nation, perhaps a tacit acknowledgment of the Republicans in Congress who objected to the Electoral College results in an effort to overturn the election.

“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. But I also know they are not new,” Mr. Biden said. “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” 

Mr. Biden also reached out to supporters of Mr. Trump, urging them to “hear me out.”

“Hear me out, as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If we still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our Republic is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength,” Mr. Biden said. “Yet hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans. And I promise you, I fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

Mr. Biden also said that he understood those who “view the future with fear and trepidation,” but urged Americans to try to connect with those who disagree with them.

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” he said, adding that “we must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation.”

Mr. Biden sought to reassure the American public, saying “we will get through this together,” and also briefly addressed foreign audiences watching his speech.

“America has been tested. And we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden also acknowledged the 400,000 Americans lost to the coronavirus pandemic, leading the audience in a “silent prayer” honoring the victims and their families.

“I promise you, we will be judged — you and I — for how we resolve these cascading crises of our era,” he said.

He closed his speech with a “sacred oath,” promising to defend the Constitution, tell the truth and lead the people without selfishness, an implicit rebuke to Mr. Trump.

“I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I will defend our democracy. I will defend America,” Mr. Biden said. “With purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to each other and the country that we love with all our hearts.”

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