Biden sworn in as 46th US president, calls for national unity amid bitter division

Thursday, 2021-01-21 08:48:23
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US President-elect Joe Biden (L, Front) is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)
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At an unusual inauguration closed to public due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic, US President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday at the West Front of the Capitol, which was breached two weeks ago by violent protesters trying to overturn his election victory.

Under the gaze of National Guard troops standing beneath the Capitol steps facing the reflection pool to guard the security for the ceremony, Biden took his oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, putting his hand on the 127-year-old family Bible.

Biden said in his inauguration speech that his "whole soul is in" unifying a nation torn apart by the many challenges that need to be overcome, urging the American people to come together at a "historic moment of crisis."

"This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward," Biden said, referencing a "once-in-a-century virus" pandemic that took over 400,000 lives, as well as the existence of a "cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making."

"To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity," said Biden, who, at 78, is the oldest man to be sworn in as US president.

Moments before Biden's swearing-in, Kamala Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first female and woman of color to hold the nation's second-highest office.

While Biden was still speaking, Harris tweeted out her first message as vice president, saying: "Ready to serve."

The president in his speech didn't mention his predecessor, Donald Trump, from whom he didn't receive applause on the platform since the outgoing president had arrived at his private residence in Florida as Biden spoke. Yet, Biden has vowed to undo many of Trump's policies and is expected to do so by signing a flurry of executive orders later in the day.

"Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path," Biden said. "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," he said in what appeared to be a veiled reference to the unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and other conspiracy theories that led to the takeover by the pro-Trump mob of the very building he was standing before.

"My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this," Biden said in plea to the American people, promising them that he "will be a president for all Americans" and "will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did."

In the wake of the deadly violence on Capitol Hill, Washington was under partial lockdown as Biden and Harris took their oaths of office, with the Capitol building surrounded by barbed wire fencing, and the National Mall emptied and filled with some 200,000 flags to represent those who were disallowed to attend the inauguration due to the pandemic and security concerns.

Up to 25,000 National Guard members were deployed in the city -- where a public emergency declaration is in effect -- patrolling the streets to prevent the insurrection from happening again.

Among those soldiers, 12 were removed from duty Tuesday over various threats they were perceived to pose. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters that "there's enough information for us to determine to remove them from the Capitol."

Biden sent out his first tweet as president shortly after the inauguration ceremony concluded.

"There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That's why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families," he said.