Unity of the American people will lead to a path forward as the country starts afresh, said President Joe Biden, who today was inaugurated as the country's 46th president Jan. 20 along with Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected to the vice presidency.
On the West side of the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts delivered the oath of office just before noon to the new president, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in the vice president. In the audience were three former U.S. presidents, former Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, the Supreme Court justices and family members of Biden and Harris.
Snow flurries encircled some 25,000 National Guard members and thousands of law enforcement officers who stood sentry around the U.S. Capitol grounds and the National Mall to ensure safety for the 59th presidential inauguration.
And so today, at this time, in this place, let's start afresh — all of us."
President Joe Biden
The Armed Forces Color Guard presented the colors, and singer Lady Gaga sang the national anthem. Entertainer Jennifer Lopez sang a medley of "This Land Is My Land" and "America the Beautiful," while country singer Garth Brooks sang "Amazing Grace;" the U.S. Marine Band accompanied each of them.
"This is America's day. This is democracy day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve," Biden said in his inaugural speech. Democracy is precious and fragile, he added.
The American story depends on all citizens and "we the people who seek a more perfect union," he said, adding "because we still have far to go."
We will press forward with speed and urgency, Biden said. He added that there is much to repair and restore in the nation, much to build and much to gain in these challenging times because of the pandemic, social and racial unrest, unemployment and a fragile economy.
He denounced extremism, domestic terrorism and white supremacy as he stood on the Capitol's west balcony, which was stormed by a violent mob two weeks ago. "We must confront — and we will defeat — these challenges to restore the soul and security of America," Biden said.
The new president called for a moment of silent prayer for the 400,000 U.S. lives lost to COVID-19 and their families.
He praised former President Jimmy Carter, the only living president who could not attend the inauguration, and said he had spoken by phone to the 96-year-old Carter.
Biden asked every American to join him in the cause of unifying the United States.
"I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things," he said.
"We can right wrongs, work in good jobs, teach our children in safe schools, overcome the deadly COVID-19 virus and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all," he told attendees.
"Americans can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect and join forces to stop the shouting and lower the temperature," Biden said, adding that, otherwise, there is no peace or progress for our nation.
Biden said Americans must end the "uncivil war." He said that can be done by opening our souls and leading by example.
"If we do that, I guarantee we will not fail. We have never ever, ever, ever failed in America. We've acted together. And so today, at this time, in this place, let's start afresh — all of us. Listen to one another again. Show respect to one another. [Politics] doesn't have to be a raging fire," the new president said.
"Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war," he added. "We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this."
Biden said he will be a president for all people — not just for those who voted for him. He promised to fight as hard for the people who didn't vote for him. "Every hour as we move forward, measure me and my heart," he said. "If you still disagree, so be it. That's democracy. That's America.
"What are the finest objects Americans love?" he asked. "I think we know — opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth … We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.
"Together, we will write an American story of hope, and not fear of unity, and not division of light or darkness. It will be a story of decency and dignity, love and healing [and] greatness and goodness," Biden said.
Biden, Harris and the three former presidents left the U.S. Capitol following the inauguration and traveled to Arlington National Cemetery. After a lone bugler played "Taps," the president and vice president lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.