President Biden says unity is 'the path forward' in inaugural address

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address Wednesday before a small crowd of elected officials, supporters and celebrities gathered on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Biden, who held the office of vice president during the Obama administration and now serves as the 46th president. Biden, a Democrat, attempted to focus on unity during his speech at a time when the nation remains divided about the results of the 2020 presidential election and differing ideas about how to best address the cultural and economic problems facing the country.

Biden described unity as “the path forward,” adding, “We must meet this moment as the United States of America. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors, we can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature, for without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.”

The new president expressed a desire to “start afresh” and urged the American people to “begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another (and) show respect to one another.” He asserted that “politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.”

“With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools, we can overcome the deadly virus,” he promised.

In addition to thanking his supporters, Biden urged those who did not vote for him to “hear me out as we move forward, take a measure of me and my heart and if you still disagree so be it.” He held up “the right to dissent peaceably” as a hallmark of American democracy and assured that he would “be a president for all Americans.” Additionally, the president pledged to “fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

Invoking St. Augustine, who defined a people as a “multitude defined by the common objects of their love,” Biden asked, “What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans?” He cited “opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect (and) honor” as some of the common objects of love that define the American people.

He called on the American people “to end this uncivil war that pits red against blue … rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal” by opening “our souls instead of hardening our hearts” and showing “tolerance and humility.”

“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. 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 (and) demonization have long torn us apart.”

Describing the aforementioned battle as “perennial,” the president contended that throughout American history, “our better angels have always prevailed.” Acknowledging that “we have come so far,” the president maintained that “we still have far to go.” He vowed to “press forward with speed and urgency,” adding, “We have much to do.”

The president listed some of the difficulties the nation faces, including a “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country” and “a cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making.” He vowed that “the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer” and cited the “rise of political extremism, white supremacy (and) domestic terrorism” as well as “growing inequity” and “a climate in crisis” as issues of pressing concern.

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the president remained optimistic that “We will get through this together.” He asked the crowd to join him in a moment of silent prayer in honor of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have succumbed to the pandemic.

Biden began the speech by proclaiming “This is America’s Day, this is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.” According to the president, “Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause, the cause of democracy. … The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.”

“Democracy has prevailed,” he proclaimed as the crowd applauded. Biden acknowledged his predecessors of both parties gathered in the audience: former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Additionally, the president recognized 96-year-old former president Jimmy Carter, who did not attend the ceremony.

“The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect Union,” he stressed. “This is a great nation, we are good people.”

Invoking the words of the revered President Abraham Lincoln, Biden announced that “My whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation.” The president also addressed the other countries of the world, vowing that “we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again” and “lead, not by the example of our power but by the power of our example.”

Toward the end of his speech, Biden vowed “I will always level with you, I will defend the Constitution, I’ll defend our democracy, I’ll defend America.” He emphasized the importance of “hope not fear, of unity not division (and) of light not darkness,” expressing hope that future generations will look back at his administration as a time when “America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.”

“With purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts,” he concluded. After calling on God to bless America and the troops, Biden thanked the country for giving him the opportunity to serve as the 46th president as his address drew to a close.

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