Joe Biden was sworn in on Wednesday afternoon as the 46th president of the United States and proclaimed “Democracy has prevailed.”
Speaking on the steps of the U.S. Capitol just two weeks after an insurrection in that building that disrupted the official certification of his election win, Biden took a high road in accepting the challenges of the presidency. “This is America’s day. This is democracy‘s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” he said.
In a call for unity markedly different from the tone his predecessor, Donald Trump, set in his own inaugural address four years ago, Biden also made clear that the day was not a celebration of one candidate but a celebration of “the cause of democracy.”
While he did not mention Trump by name, Biden acknowledged the divisiveness that has fractured the nation particularly since the election. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” he 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.”
During the ceremony, Kamala Harris was also sworn in as the nation’s 49th vice president — becoming not only the first woman to hold the position, but the first Black and South Asian person as well.
The event was attended by outgoing vice president Mike Pence as well as previous presidents such as Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, along with their spouses. Notably, outgoing president Donald Trump did not attend, nor did his wife. Trump was the first president in almost 152 years to skip his successor’s inauguration.
The event also included musical performances by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks as well as a poem by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman.
The inauguration took place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and was, as previously announced, a scaled-back affair in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 400,000 Americans.
It also came two weeks after Trump-supporting rioters overtook the Capitol building during a Congressional joint session called to formally certify Biden’s win. The rioters, like some Republican lawmakers, aligned themselves with Trump and backed his baseless insistence that his loss was attributable to widespread voter fraud. Five people died as a result of the riot. Another Capitol police officer died by suicide the following weekend.