President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday, ushering in a new era of calm and comity to Washington after four divisive and tumultuous years under former President Donald Trump.
Standing at the Capitol just two weeks after a mob of insurrectionists invaded that building seeking to
overturn the presidential election based on Trump’s lies about the results, Biden set out on the daunting
task of uniting the nation by urging Americans to come together as they confront the deadly pandemic,
an economic collapse that has left millions unemployed and deep divisions over issues of racial justice
and police brutality.
“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this — bringing American people together, uniting our
nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said in his inaugural speech.
The former vice president, who decided to run for the White House after Trump’s shocking reaction to
the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, noted that the nation is struggling
through a rise of White nationalism, racism and deep political divisions.
“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path,” Biden said, calling on
Americans to come together. “We have to be different than this. America has to be better than this.”
“I will be a president for all Americans,” Biden said speaking directly to those who did not support him in
the November election. “I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as those who did.”
Moments earlier, he was sworn in with his hand on the Biden family Bible, which has a Celtic Cross on
the cover and has been a family heirloom since 1893. The President-elect has used the Bible each time
he has taken an oath of office, both as a senator from Delaware and as vice president.
Vice President Kamala Harris made history Wednesday when she was sworn in as the first female, the
first Black and first South Asian vice president of the United States.
After a tumultuous year that began a new chapter of the civil rights movement as Americans took to the
streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality after the death of George Floyd, the
swearing in was a remarkable achievement for a country that has often struggled to live up to its ideals
of equality for all.
Biden noted the historic nature of Harris’ swearing in during his speech.
“Here we stand looking out on the great Mall, where Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) spoke of his dream.
Here we stand where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave
women marching for the right to vote. Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American
history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris,” Biden said.
Harris was sworn in on two Bibles — one that belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood
Marshall, one of her heroes who inspired her to pursue a career in the law, and that of Regina Shelton, a
neighbor who cared for Harris and her sister Maya when they were growing up and attended church with
In soaring tones before a bipartisan audience — that symbolized a moment of democracy restored after
the turmoil of recent weeks — Lady Gaga performed the National Anthem and Jennifer Lopez sang a
medley of American musical selections including “This Land is your Land” and “America the Beautiful.”
Trump, who was the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend his successor’s swearing-
in ceremony, arrived in Florida before Biden was sworn in. In Washington,more than 25,000 National
Guard troops were in place to ensure that the nation’s transfer of power took place peacefully.
Unlike the former president, former Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol when it was
stormed by Trump’s supporters earlier this month and presided over the certification of the election
results, and former second lady Karen Pence attended the inauguration — walking out onto the inaugural
stands to bipartisan applause. The incoming vice president and outgoing vice president and their
spouses shared a laugh shortly before the Pences departed for private life.
Speaking at the ceremony as the nation’s first youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman recited a
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished,” Gorman
said in the poem she read after Biden’s speech. “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather
than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly
succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
Biden reflected on that dark moment for the nation several times during his speech, noting that the world
is watching after its entire system of government came under attack.
“Here is my message to those beyond our borders: 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,” Biden said.
The new President also said the nation’s success in getting through this moment will hinge on whether
Americans can come together and set aside their differences to defeat the pandemic that has ravaged
the nation, costing more than 400,000 lives. He highlighted some of the previous challenges the nation
has confronted, including the Great Depression, two world wars and the September 11 attacks.
“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 are real, but I also know they are not new,” Biden said in his speech, calling on
Americans to forge a new way forward. “We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors —
speaking to each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the
temperature. Without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury; no progress, only exhausting
outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos.”
He asked his audience to unite to meet the moment as one nation: “If we do that, I guarantee you, we
will not fail.”
“At this time, in this place, let’s start afresh,” Biden said.
Trump leaves Washington
Biden’s tone could not have been more different than the bitter, divisive one adopted by Trump
throughout his presidency as he slashed his political opponents and anyone who dared to criticize him
on Twitter and during his ranting campaign speeches, threaded with lies and threats to whip up his
The former president left the White House as president for the last time Wednesday morning, flying to
Florida with first lady Melania Trump, dispensing with the tradition of greeting the incoming President
and first lady at the White House and riding with them to the Capitol. CNN’s Kate Bennett reported that
White House chief usher Timothy Harleth will meet the Bidens later at the White House.
On his way out of the Washington area, Trump — who was not wearing a mask — again used the racist
term “China virus” to describe the coronavirus, describing it in the past tense, and touted his
administration’s work on developing a vaccine.
He thanked his staff and family and wished the next administration “great success” but did not mention
his successor by name.
“We love you, this has been an incredible four years,” Trump said in unscripted remarks at Joint Base
Andrews shortly before leaving for Florida. “We’ve accomplished so much.”
“I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening.”
Biden’s taskhas been complicated by the fact that Trump has still not conceded the election, had
impeded the transition between administrations and was consumed in his final days with planning his
own departure ceremony and weighing whom to pardon. But Trump left the White House as a disgraced
and diminished figure. CNN’s White House team has reported that although dozens of current and
former officials had been invited to the Wednesday morning farewell ceremony, many declined to attend.
Pence said his final goodbyes to Trump on Tuesday.
Biden and Harris attended a service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in DC ahead of the
inaugural ceremonies with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck
Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a show of unity
and Biden’s intent to work with leaders from both parties.
Honoring the victims of Covid-19
Biden largely ignored Trump’s final slights against the democratic process in the final hours before the
inauguration as he demonstrated what a different president he will be.
After a year in which Trump denied the seriousness of the pandemic — often brushing aside the painful
loss of life with erroneous boasts that the US death rate was better than in many other countries —
Biden’s first act upon arriving in Washington Tuesday afternoon was to honor the victims of the
coronavirus in a solemn ceremony, making it clear that offering compassion and understanding to
Americans will be just as central to his mission as preventing more tragedy.
Moments before 400 columns of light were illuminated on the edges of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting
Pool to honor the lives lost, Biden invited Americans to mourn as he grieved alongside them — a
moment that was extraordinary because there had been nothing like it during the Trump administration.
The President has long been defined by his innate ability to comfort strangers he has met throughout his
journey in politics, because of his experience working through tragedies in his own life — from the loss of
his first wife and his infant daughter in a 1972 car accident to the death of Beau Biden in 2015.
He encapsulated the lessons of those personal experiences in his tribute to Covid-19 victims on the eve
of taking the oath of office: “It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” he said at the
memorial. “It’s important to do that as a nation.”
Biden is immediately turning his focus to his plans to unite the country, to broker compromise with
political opponents, and turn the Trump administration’s overly politicized response to the pandemic into
a functional operation that can accelerate the delivery of vaccines to Americans and right the flagging
He wants to show that he will move swiftly to undo Trump’s legacy,with aides readying about a dozen
executive actions that Biden can take as soon as he is sworn into office that include rejoining the Paris
climate agreement and ending Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The
President plans to extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for families affected by Covid-19
and to sign an order requiring masks on federal property and during interstate travel.
Inauguration Day looks different this year
Plans for the inauguration itself have been reshaped not only by the pandemic, but also by the stunning
security breach at the US Capitol on January 6. There will be no crowds in the streets or on the National
Mall as the city remains in lockdown.
Biden plans to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, joined by former Presidents Barack
Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, along with their spouses.
But in an empty and heavily guarded city, the rest of the traditional inaugural festivities will be geared
toward an audience that will be livestreaming at home.
The inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to honor the incoming administration will be largely a
virtual one. Biden and Harris will have a presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House
including the US Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard and the commander in chief’s Guard and Fife
Drum Corps. And the drumlines from the University of Delaware and Howard University will join that
event to honor the alma maters of the new president and vice president.
The parade will be hosted by “Scandal” actor Tony Goldwyn and will feature comedian Jon Stewart,
New Radicals and DJ Cassidy’s “Pass the Mic” with performances by Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers,
Kathy Sledge, The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, The Washington Chorus and The Triumph Baptist
Several Americans who sought to lift spirits of their neighbors in the midst of the pandemic will also take
part, including Dr. Jason Campbell — a Portland, Oregon, doctor who became known as the “TikToc
Doc” with his uplifting dance performances in scrubs from the hospital — and Jason Zgonc, a 12-year-old
trumpeter from Atlanta who played during hospital workers’ break times throughout the summer.( CNN / IM )