WASHINGTON: Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” and summoning American resilience and unity to confront the deeply divided nation’s historic confluence of crises.
At the Capitol, with America’s tradition of peaceful transfers of power never appearing more fragile, the ceremony unfolded within a circle of security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, Biden gazed out on a cold Washington morning dotted with snow flurries to see over 200,000 American flags planted on the National Mall to symbolize those who could not attend in person.
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden declared in his speech. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”
History was made at his side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government.
Biden never mentioned his predecessor, who defied tradition and left town ahead of the ceremony, but his speech was an implicit rebuke of Donald Trump. The new president denounced “lies told for power and for profit” and was blunt about the challenges ahead.
“We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” Biden said. “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”
Then, taking his place in the White House Oval Office, he plunged into a stack of executive actions that began to undo the heart of his polarizing predecessor ’s agenda on matters from the deadly pandemic to climate change.
Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days including a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. It included a blitz of executive orders on matters that don’t require congressional approval — a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to unwind the Trump years. His actions included re-entry into the Paris Climate Accords and a mandate for wearing masks on federal property.
“There’s no time to start like today,” a masked Biden said, in the Oval Office.
Agencies, January 21, 2021