‘My whole soul is in this’: Biden inauguration signals emotional redemption for democracy

Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Joe Biden raised his right hand on Wednesday and became the 46th President of the United States, promising to represent all Americans and called for the end to an “uncivil war,” noting that American democracy stood a major test in the years ahead.

The historic moment was compounded with the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black woman in history to hold the office. One of the first to greet her was former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native, administered the oath of office to Harris.

As presidents of years past took their seats for the inauguration of President Biden – including now-former Vice President Mike Pence – Air Force One landed in Florida to deliver former President Donald Trump for the last time to his primary residence as Mar-a-Lago.

Commentary leading up to the inauguration ceremony welcoming Biden as the 46th President of the United States was reflective of the Jan. 6 attack by Trump loyalists on the Capitol Building, seeing to halt the certification of electoral votes by Congress as well as calling for the death of legislators, including Pence himself.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. Vice President as her spouse Doug Emhoff holds a bible during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and his wife Abigail Blunt arrive ahead of the inauguration of Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts had the duty of swearing in Joe Biden as President of the United States by 11:49 a.m, a morning that started with snowfall but transformed into a clear day with sun shining on the attendees in the National Mall as well as a field of 191,500 American flags representing Americans who could not attend the ceremony due to COVID-19.

Biden and Harris officially took office at noon Wednesday, marking the Constitutional start of their term.

“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 role of people has been heated,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “An once-in-a-century virus silently stalking the country has taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II, millions of jobs have been lost, hundreds of 1,000s of businesses closed, a cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”

The new president said that he and the entire country must work together to heal the divisions that have divided us in previous years.

“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,” he added. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this – if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”

Warning that the United States may be entering the most dangerous chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said that Americans would face the challenges with unity and promising that “joy [will] in the morning,” referencing a Biblical verse. 

“I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era,” Biden added. “My fellow Americans I closed the day where I began. The Sacred Oath before God and all of you. I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the constitution and defend our democracy and defend America. And I will give all, all of you, keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities, not of personal interest, but for the public good and together we shall write an American story of hope not fear, of unity not division of light, not darkness, a story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us, the story that inspires us, and a story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment, democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived, that America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.”

Moments before Biden joined the others on the platform with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, the ceremony began with remarks from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

“Have we become too jaded too accustomed to the ritual of the passing of the torch of democracy to truly appreciate what a blessing and a privilege it is to witness this moment? I think not” Klobuchar said. “Now it falls on all of us, not just the two leaders we are not operating today to take up the torch of our democracy, not as a weapon of political arson, but as an instrument for good, we pledged today, never to take our democracy for granted, as we celebrate its remarkable strength, we celebrate its resilience.”

Following additional remarks from Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and the singing of the National Anthem by Lady Gaga, Harris stepped to the podium and raised her right hand and swore to defend the nation from enemies foreign and domestic.

Jennifer Lopez followed with a performance of This Land is Your Land.

Garth Brooks was one of a few artists closing the ceremony, performing Amazing Grace, followed by Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman and Reverend Silvester Beaman.

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