“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day,” said Joe Biden – at 11:46 am ET, on the steps of the Capitol – moments after becoming the 46th President of the United States.
Senator Amy Klobuchar was the first to welcome the new American president to the stage, with Joe Biden stepping up to deliver a 21-minute long address, promising to “rebuild” America and calling for “unity” in the wake of four divided years under Donald Trump.
Biden began his speech in an existential tone, noting the challenges of the past four years and particularly in the months since November’s presidential election;
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious,”
“And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
He sought to capture the last four years and pledge that he will forge a different path to his immediate predecessor, reaching out to America’s allies across the world and declaring that America is once again ready to lead in the world.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that he is planning to sign 17 executive orders within the early hours of his presidency. These will see America re-enter the World Health Organisation and Paris Climate Accords, as well as rollback programmes such as the Trump border wall and the ‘Muslim ban’.
He reached out directly to America’s allies in his inaugural address;
“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.”
Biden carried a sombre tone throughout his speech; a stark contrast from when his former boss, Barack Obama was sworn into office. Instead of promises of hope and change, he was stark about the challenges that America faced, comparing the current moment to other major challenges in American history. Invoking Abraham Lincoln, he noted that democracy must continue to prevail, following on from the desecration of the Capitol building by Trump supporters exactly two weeks ago.
He made a number of references to his predecessor, highlighting the fake news and partisan divides that had gripped America, encouraging unity and healing amongst the American people.
“We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we master this rare and difficult hour?”
Biden’s speech offered little that he hadn’t said before – typical for president’s inaugural addresses. He noted the historic moment that today’s inauguration represents, with his Vice President, Kamala Harris becoming the first female vice president; invoking the suffrage movement 100 years ago.
Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama all dressed in shades of purple, noting the colour that represented the suffrage movement, with many other attendees wearing a splash of purple to mark the historic moment that a woman was inaugurated to national office in the United States.
Biden invoked his own personal life, noting how he had overcome many challenges and that life took many unexpected turns. Having lost his first wife in his 30s, shortly before first entering the Senate, and losing his son, Beau Biden just a few years ago, he noted how his own personal strife would allow him to rise to the moment and put America back on a path forged by presidents before him.
The Presidential party has now departed the Capitol and will make the short journey to Arlington Cemetery, where he will pay respects to fallen American soldiers along with former president’s Obama, Bush and Clinton, before departing for the White House where he will begin work, before attending the traditional inaugural balls later this evening.