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Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Devi Harris took the oath

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Devi Harris took the oath

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in on Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, assuming leadership of a country ravaged by disease, dislocation and division with a call to “end this uncivil war” after four tumultuous years that tore at the fabric of American society. Mr. Biden sought to immediately turn the corner on Donald J. Trump’s polarizing presidency, inviting Republicans to join him in confronting the nation’s dire economic, social and health crises even as he began dismantling his predecessor’s legacy with orders to halt construction of his border wall, lift his travel ban and rejoin the Paris climate agreement. The ritualistic transfer of power ended weeks of suspense as the vanquished president waged a relentless bid to hang on, only to be rebuffed at every level of government, clearing the way for Mr. Biden to claim his office. With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Mr. Biden recited the 35-word oath administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. at 11:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the constitutionally prescribed noon hour.

Vice President Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in a few minutes earlier by Justice Sonia Sotomayor using a Bible that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights icon and Supreme Court justice. Ms. Harris thus became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States and the first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation’s second highest office.

The drama of the moment was underscored by the sight of Mr. Biden taking the oath on the same West Front of the Capitol seized just two weeks ago by a marauding mob trying to block final ratification of Mr. Trump’s election defeat. Without ever naming Mr. Trump, who left the White House early in the morning for Florida but still faces a Senate trial for provoking his supporters, Mr. Biden said that the United States’ democratic experiment itself had come under assault by extremism and lies but ultimately endured. “Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge,” the president said in a 21-minute Inaugural Address that blended soaring themes with folksy touches. “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,” he added. “We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

Already abbreviated because of Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, the transition that ended Wednesday was like none before, not just from one party to another but from one reality to another. A president who came to Washington to blow up the system was replaced by one who is a lifelong creature of it. A president who seemed capable of almost anything at any moment was dislodged by one who fits comfortably in the conventions of modern politics.

Mr. Biden’s broader message was conciliatory yet challenging, as he called on Americans to put aside their deep and dark divisions to come together to confront the coronavirus pandemic, economic troubles and the scourge of racism. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” Mr. Biden said. “We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment.”

Mr. Biden used the word “unity” or “uniting” 11 times, saying that he knew it “can sound to some like a foolish fantasy” but insisting that Americans had emerged from previous moments of discord and could do so again. “We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature,” he said. “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”

Instead, Mr. Biden reviewed military units at the Capitol and later proceeded to the White House escorted by military marching bands as well as drum lines from the University of Delaware and Howard University, the alma maters of the new president and vice president. Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, his son Hunter Biden and his daughter Ashley Biden, as well as a passel of grandchildren and other relatives, emerged from the motorcade to walk the final blocks to the White House, but it was a gesture aimed more at cameras than the crowd because there were more police and National Guard troops than spectators. Still, one tradition that went forward left an impression. Amanda Gorman, 22, a self-described “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” became the youngest inaugural poet in American history and drew raves for her powerful words:
“Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed. “A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

In characteristic fashion, Mr. Trump defied custom by leaving Washington hours before the swearing-in, although Mike Pence, his vice president, did attend. In remarks to supporters before boarding Air Force One, Mr. Trump still could not bring himself to mention Mr. Biden’s name but said, “I wish the new administration great luck and great success.” He did leave the traditional note for his successor, which Mr. Biden later called “a very generous letter.”

Mr. Biden expressed no regret about Mr. Trump’s absence but sought to project common cause with Republican as well as Democratic leaders in the Capitol in a chummy gathering after the ceremony with none of the animus that characterized Mr. Trump’s era. He even tried to persuade them to still call him Joe.

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About The Author

Praveen Yadav

19 | Bibliophile and quaint | Full-Time Coder, Occasional Writer | Analytical Journalist at NDTV | Political and Psychological

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