Joe Biden issued a call for unity and promised to govern for ‘all Americans’ Wednesday, seeking to move the nation beyond the presidency of Donald Trump and what he described as an attack on democracy itself in his first remarks to the nation as president.
In a 22-minute address after he was sworn in 11 minutes early by Chief Justice John Roberts, Biden drew a sharp contrast between his presidency and the preceding four years, saying: ‘My whole soul is in this. I’ll keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities, not of personal injuries but the public good.’
Biden did not mention Trump by name but wove a thread of contrast through his speech. He denounced ‘lies told for power and for profit,’ said ‘there are truth and there are lies,’ acknowledged the bitter divisions in the country as an ‘uncivil war,’ and referred to the MAGA mob which rioted in the place he spoke just two weeks ago, saying: ‘Democracy prevailed.’
He spoke in unique circumstances: no crowds because of COVID and a security clampdown in the wake of the MAGA riot, and for the first time since 1869, his predecessor absent.
Trump had left Washington D.C. with a tub-thumping speech saying ‘we will be back – in some form’ and taken Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago, issuing a final pardon with less than an hour of his presidency left, and telling his friends he will start his own ‘Patriot Party.’
On the dais on the Capitol steps, Biden put his hand on his family’s Bible, held by his wife Jill, and took the oath, then addressed the nation for the first time as the 46th president.
He made unity the theme of his address and also highlighted the coronavirus hobbling the nation, taking a pause and asking for silent prayer for the more than 400,000 COVID dead.
‘To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you’ve placed in us. To all of those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart,’ said Biden.
‘If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy,’ he told opponents. ‘That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably. Within the guardrails of our republic, it’s perhaps this nation’s greatest strength. Yet hear me clearly: disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you, I will be a president for all Americans – all Americans,’ he said.