Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed.”
He takes the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherits a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors. But there were comforting signs of tradition in the hallowed American rite that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, which was battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago.
The day began with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. At Biden’s invitation, congressional leaders from both parties bowed their heads in prayer in a socially distanced church service just a few blocks from the White House.
Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for Trump, sat nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a gold microphone, sang the national anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.
President Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
Guests and spectators attend the 59th Presidential Inauguration for President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden as they attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. Photo: AP
Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, stop to greet a young guest during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, as their children Ashley and Hunter watch. Photo: AP
President-elect Joe Biden greets Lady Gaga during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, and former President George Bush, take a selfie before the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
President Joe Biden hugs first lady Jill Biden, his son Hunter Biden and daughter Ashley Biden after being sworn-in during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
A social distanced crowd, looks on for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
A law enforcement personnel monitors the area during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoffl left, and former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence speak before the Pence's depart the Capitol after the Inauguration of President Joe Biden ceremony on the East Front of the Capitol at the conclusion of the inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Photo: AP
President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. Trump is en route to his Mar-a-Lago Florida Resort. Photo: AP
Flags line the National Mall towards the Capitol Building as events get underway for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. Photo: AP
President Joe Biden's inaugural address Wednesday, as provided by CQ Transcripts:
Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris.
Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, and my distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, this is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a Crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.
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 will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.
So now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.
As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be. I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I know--
And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter who I spoke with last night who cannot be with us today but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.
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I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not in any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we, the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far, but we still have far to go.
We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.
Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now. Once in a century virus that silently stalks 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 thousands 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 cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
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. Unity.
In another January, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and quote, “If my name ever goes down into history, it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it."
My whole soul is in it.
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Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.
Uniting to fight the foes we face: aanger, resentment, and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.
With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward--reward work and rebuild the middle class and make healthcare secure for all. We can deliver racial justice, and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.
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 they are real, but I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured.
Through Civil War, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward, and we can do that now.
History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
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. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.
If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. We have never ever ever ever failed in America when we have acted together, and so today at this time in this place, let’s start off fresh all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war, and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.
My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this, and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome as was mentioned earlier completed amid the Civil War when the Union itself was literally hanging in the balance.
Yet we endured, we prevailed. Here we stand, looking out on the great mall where Dr. King 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, and today we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris.
Don’t tell me things can’t change. Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington Cemetery where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace, and here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen; it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.
To all of those who supported our campaign, I am humbled by the faith you have 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. If you still disagree, so be it, that’s democracy, that’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our Republic is 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.
And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.
Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and yes, the truth.
In recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit, and each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.
Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like my dad they lay at bed staring at the night — staring at the ceiling wondering can I keep my healthcare, can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you I get it, but the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like — look like you or worship the way you do or don’t get their news from the same source as you do.
We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban or rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. 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 are willing to stand in the other person’s shoes as my mom would say just for a moment stand in their shoes because here’s the thing about life, there’s no accounting for what fate will deal you.
Some days when you need a hand, there are other days when we are called to lend a hand. That is how it has to be, and that is what we do for one another, and if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future, and we can still disagree.
My fellow Americans in the work ahead of us, we are going to need each other. We need all of our strength to preserve--to persevere through this dark winter. We are entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation.
And I promise you that this as the Bible said weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. We will get through this together, together.
Look, folks, all of my colleagues I have served with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today, so 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.
And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, by the power of our example.
We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.
Look, you all know we’ve been through so much in this nation. And in my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer, remember all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic, those 400,000 fellow Americans, moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
We will honor them by becoming the people in the nation we know we can and should be. So, I ask you let’s say a silent prayer for those who’ve lost their lives and those left behind and for our country.
Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways, but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with a — one of the gravest responsibilities we had.
Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up, all of us? It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain. I promise you we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.
We will rise to the occasion is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children?
I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will. And when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America, the American story, a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me. It’s called American Anthem. There’s one verse that stands out at least for me, and it goes like this.
“The work and prayers of century have brought us to this day. What shall be our legacy? What will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through America, America, I gave my best to you.”
Let’s add — lets us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best. They did their duty. They healed a broken land.
My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America. And I will give all, all of you, keep everything you--I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities, not of personal interest but 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 the 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 is a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generation to follow.
So, with purpose and result, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another in the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops.
Thank you, America.
China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday.
In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft.
Others covered by the sanctions include Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; health and human services secretary, Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon. The sanctions are largely symbolic but underscore Beijing’s antipathy toward a U.S. administration it regarded as hostile.
“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Pompeo announced that he had declared China's repression of Muslim ethnic minorities a “genocide," possibly opening the door to new U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials.
The Trump administration had steadily ramped up pressure on China since last year but had increasingly so over the past several months. During its last weeks in office, the administration had hit numerous officials with sanctions for their actions on Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant Wednesday as she called out to the world “even as we grieved, we grew."
In language referencing Biblical scripture and at times echoing the oratory of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the 22-year-old Gorman read with urgency and assertion as she began by asking “Where can we find light/In this never-ending shade?” and used her own poetry and life story as an answer. The poem's very title, “The Hill We Climb,” suggested both labor and transcendence.
"We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
Of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we’ve found the power
To author a new chapter,
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves."
It was an extraordinary task for Gorman, the youngest by far of the poets who have read at presidential inaugurations since Kennedy invited Robert Frost in 1961, with other predecessors including Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander. A native and resident of Los Angeles and the country's first National Youth Poet Laureate, Gorman told The Associated Press last week that she planned to combine a message of hope for President Joseph Biden's inaugural without ignoring "the evidence of discord and division.” She had completed a little more than half of “The Hill We Climb” before Jan. 6 and the siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump,
“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman told the AP. She had said that she would not mention Jan. 6 specifically, but her reference was unmistakable:
"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."
Frost's appearance at the Kennedy inaugural was a kind of valedictory — he was 86 and died two years later. Gorman's career is just beginning. Her first two books come out later this year — the picture story “Change Things” and a bound edition of her inaugural poem. Ceremonial works are often quickly forgotten, but Angelou's “On the Pulse Of the Morning,” which she read at the 1993 inaugural of President Clinton, went on to sell more than 1 million copies as a book.
Invited to the inaugural late last month by first lady Jill Biden, Gorman has read at official occasions before — including a July 4 celebration when she was backed by the Boston Pops Orchestra. She has also made clear her desire to appear at a future inaugural, in a much greater capacity, an ambition she stated firmly in her poem.
"We, the successors of a country and a time,
Where a skinny black girl,
Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,
Can dream of becoming president,
Only to find herself reciting for one."
Vice President Kamala Harris broke the barrier Wednesday that has kept men at the top ranks of American power for more than two centuries when she took the oath to hold the nation's second-highest office.
Harris was sworn in as the first female vice president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the position — in front of the U.S. Capitol by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The moment was steeped in history and significance in more ways than one. She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who single-handedly took on a mob of Trump supporters as they tried to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol insurrection that sought to overturn the election results. Harris was wearing clothes from two young, emerging Black designers — a deep purple dress and coat.
After taking the oath of office, a beaming Harris hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President Joe Biden a first bump.
Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary falls away, expanding the idea of what's possible in American politics. But it's particularly meaningful because Harris is taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities.
Those close to Harris say she'll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the new administration.
“In many folks' lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States," said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world."
Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard."
Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first came to Washington as a senator from California, where she'd served as attorney general and as San Francisco's district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump's victory quickly scrambled the nation's capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars.
After Harris' own presidential bid fizzled, her rise continued when Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer.
The inauguration activities included nods to her history-making role and her personal story.
Harris used two Bibles to take the oath, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris' alma mater, Howard University, joined the presidential escort.
To mark the occasion, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the nation’s oldest sorority for Black women, which Harris joined at Howard University, declared Wednesday as Soror Kamala D. Harris Day.
“This event will certainly be a momentous occasion that will go down in the annals of our archives as one of the greatest days the founders’ of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have envisioned,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, the sorority’s international president and chief executive office.
She'll address the nation later in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War.
Biden, in his inaugural address, reflected on the 1913 march for women's suffrage the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, during which some marchers were heckled and attacked.
“Today, we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don't tell me things can't change," Biden said.
Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity.
“I was raised to not hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'" she recalled during a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.'"
Harris' swearing-in holds more symbolic weight than that of any vice president in modern times.
She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All."
People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris' traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said.
“Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said.
Her election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election.
“We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said.