History Podcasts

President Biden Inaugural Address - History

President Biden Inaugural Address - History

Janaury 20th 2021

THE PRESIDENT: Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and 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 will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.
We have 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 days ago violence sought to shake this 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.
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.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.
As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.
I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.
But the American story depends not on 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 and we are a good people.
Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.
We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.
Much to repair.
Much to restore.
Much to heal.
Much to build.
And much to gain.
Few periods in our nation's history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we're in now.
A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.
It's 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.
A 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 in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.
To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.
It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.
Unity.
In another January in Washington, on New Year's Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
When he put pen to paper, the President said, "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.
Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together.
Uniting our people.
And uniting our nation.
I ask every American to join me in this cause.
Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred.
Extremism, lawlessness, violence.
Disease, joblessness, 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 this deadly virus.
We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.
We can deliver racial justice.
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.
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, and demonization have long torn us apart.
The battle is perennial.
Victory is never assured.
Through the 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 came together to carry all of us forward.
And, we can do so 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 failed in America when we have acted together.
And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.
All of us.
Let us listen to one another.
Hear one another.
See one another.
Show respect to one another.
Politics need not 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 a 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 better than this.
Just look around.
Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.
Yet we endured and we prevailed.
Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.
Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.
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 National 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, and to drive us from this sacred ground.
That did not happen.
It will never happen.
Not today.
Not tomorrow.
Not ever.
To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.
To all 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.
And 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 our 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.
I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.
Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.
What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?
I think I know.
Opportunity.
Security.
Liberty.
Dignity.
Respect.
Honor.
And, yes, the truth.
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 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 to defeat the lies.
I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.
I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.
I get it.
But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don't look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don't get their news from the same sources you do.
We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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.
If we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes just for a moment.
Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.
There are some days when we need a hand.
There are other days when we're called on to lend one.
That is how we must be with one another.
And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.
My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.
We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.
We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.
We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.
I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.
We will get through this, together The world is watching today.
So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have 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.
We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.
We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.
We have been through so much in this nation.
And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.
To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.
Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.
Amen.
This is a time of testing.
We face an attack on 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 the gravest of responsibilities.
Now we must step up.
All of us.
It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.
And, this is certain.
We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.
Will we rise to the occasion?
Will we master this rare and difficult hour?
Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?
I believe we must and I believe we will.
And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.
It's a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.
It's called "American Anthem" and there is one verse stands out for me: "The work and prayers of centuries 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 us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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 will defend our democracy.
I will defend America.
I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.
Not of personal interest, but of the public good.
And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.
Of unity, not division.
Of light, not darkness.
An American story of decency and dignity.
Of love and of healing.
Of greatness and of goodness.
May this be the story that guides us.
The story that inspires us.
The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.
We met the moment.
That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.
That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.
That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.
So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.
Sustained by faith.
Driven by conviction.
And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.
May God bless America and may God protect our troops.
Thank you, America.
END 12:13 pm EST


Biden's inaugural address used the word ⟞mocracy' more than any other president's

Standing in the spot where a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol had taken place two weeks earlier, President Joe Biden delivered an inaugural address that used the word "democracy" more times than any other inauguration speech in U.S. history.

"This is America's day. This is democracy's day," Biden said at the start of the speech. "The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed."

Biden used the word 11 times throughout his address. That ranks ahead of addresses from Harry Truman, who said "democracy" nine times in his 1949 address, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who did the same during his third swearing-in ceremony in 1941, according to a CNBC analysis of speeches from the American Presidency Project. The project is an archive of public documents maintained by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"What was fascinating to me about it was that he started and ended with democracy," said Bill Antholis, the director and CEO of the Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship.

Antholis, who is a former managing director at the Brookings Institution and served in the Clinton administration, attributed the theme of Biden's speech to the Capitol riot and the events that preceded it.

"I think this was a very different speech than the one that would have been written if Trump had conceded on the morning of Nov. 4," Antholis said. "And since the riot attacked both the physical symbol and a key proceeding in our democracy, Biden was speaking to a very current moment."

Most frequent uses of the word "democracy" in presidential inaugural addresses

  • Joe Biden (2021): 11
  • Harry Truman (1949): 9
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt's third address (1941): 9
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt's second address (1937): 7
  • George H.W. Bush (1989): 5
  • Bill Clinton's second address (1997): 4
  • Bill Clinton's first address (1993): 4
  • Warren G. Harding (1921): 4
  • William Henry Harrison (1841): 4

Antholis noted that the term "democracy" became more commonly used in political speech during the 20th century, around the time of Woodrow Wilson's presidency, which began in 1913. A former professor of political science, Wilson embraced the term. Antholis said that Truman and Roosevelt saw themselves as "Wilsonians," which might explain their use of the phrase.

Wednesday's speech was also a stark contrast to President Donald Trump's inaugural address four years ago, when Trump spoke of "American carnage."

"One of the things that was striking was the normalcy of a very moving ceremony and the way he spoke about democracy as enduring," said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and a former director of speechwriting for President Bill Clinton.

"The pictures that the word carnage conveys are horrible," said Kathleen Kendall, a research professor of communication at the University of Maryland. "Biden did the opposite. Iɽ say that his main point is that America has been tested and has risen to the challenge."

Words such as "America," "democracy" and "unity," all of which Biden used, are words most Americans look upon favorably and respond to positively, Kendall added.


Contextual Note

US presidential inaugurations are predictable events. They happen every four years. Except in the case of a sitting president’s reelection to a second term, they mark a transition between two different personalities and two contrasting administrations. That fact alone will always have some minor historical significance. But the event itself is choreographed to follow essentially the same formal scenario from one administration to the next. Apart from this year’s social distancing, a reduced crowd and the wearing of masks, nothing in the event itself justifies calling Biden’s inauguration ceremony historic.

Biden’s inauguration program contained some of the unique features required by the glitz and glamor of today’s hyperreality. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez offered some complimentary patriotic entertainment. There was a rap-influenced poem recited by a young female black poet, Amanda Gorman, the first-ever national youth poet laureate. But nothing about its staging or content was original or unpredictable enough to merit the epithet historic. So why did all media commentators lose themselves in using that word to describe it?

They did have one good reason, though most reporters opted to spend more time on the first-ever enthronement of a female vice president, Kamala Harris. Though an unexciting politician as her performance in the Democratic primaries revealed, Harris offers two rare attributes besides being a woman. Their combined effect adds to the sense of this being a unique moment in history. She is the daughter of two foreigners, one black (her Jamaican father) and the other Asian (her Indian mother, and Tamil, to boot).

Oddly, no commentators seem aware of a true historical curiosity: that of the two individuals of African heritage to have risen to the presidential or vice presidential position — Barack Obama and Harris — neither are descendants of the American slaves who constitute the core of African American ethnicity. That means, from a historical point of view, there is still a gap to be filled.

The real reason Biden’s inauguration could be called historic was the absence of his predecessor, Donald Trump. But even that was not only predicted — by Trump himself — but also predictable, given his narcissism. The 45 th president’s absence had no effect on the protocol of the event. It did, however, affect, at least unconsciously, everyone’s perception of the moment. For the first time in five and a half years, Americans had to face the odd fact that Donald Trump was no longer at the core of the news cycle.

For 22 minutes, Biden proceeded to produce a thoroughly unhistoric speech, rife with timeless clichés rather than the timely observations one might expect from a historic moment. Biden has always preferred pompous banalités and self-plagiarism to original thought. He predictably recycled his litany of crowd-pleasing but meaningless rhetorical formulas, already devoid of sense but even more so when repeated for the thousandth time.

As expected, there was the eternal (and historically false): “We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.” At least he made it slightly more compact than on all the previous occasions. He drew applause with his stale chiasmus, “We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example,” without realizing that a witty rhetorical figure loses its quality of wit when parroted over and over again. Inauguration audiences are trained to be solemnly polite. So, predictably, applause replaced the groans that Biden’s oft-repeated trope deserved.

The absence of a sense of true historical significance failed to deter the commentators. “A historic moment, but also a surreal one,” wrote Peter Baker in The New York Times, noting that unlike other inaugurations it “served to illustrate America’s troubles.” He seems to have forgotten a notable and recent precedent: the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, who famously evoked “American carnage” at the core of his inaugural address.

Trump’s speech four years ago was authentically surreal, as was so much that Trump thought, did or tweeted in the following four years. Trump himself, beyond his surreal acts, was the epitome of hyperreality, in the sense that he existed as a parody of the “normal” hyperreality of US politics. He permanently drew his audience’s attention to a political system built like a movie set façade and acted out following the rules of a scripted pro wrestling melodrama. Trump’s premature departure from Washington, DC, was exceptional, if not historic. But is there any justifiable reason to believe that Biden’s plodding return to normal hyperreality can be called “historic”?


Read the full text of Biden's address here:

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans.

A day of history and hope.

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 will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this 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.

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.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took - an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on 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 and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Few periods in our nation's history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we're in now.

A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.

It's 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.

A 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 in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges - to restore the soul and to secure the future of America - requires more than words.

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:

In another January in Washington, on New Year's Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the President said, "If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it."

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:

Bringing America together.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care
secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

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.

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, and demonization have long torn us apart.

Through the 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 came together to carry all of us forward.

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 failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another.
See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not 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 a 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 better than this.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.

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 National 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, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all 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.

And 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 our 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.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

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 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 to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don't look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don't get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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.

If we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes just for a moment.
Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we're called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today.

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have 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.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans - mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.

The sting of systemic racism.

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 the gravest of responsibilities.

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It's a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It's called "American Anthem" and there is one verse stands out for me:

"The work and prayers
of centuries 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 us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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 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 will defend our democracy.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.


Transcript: US President Joe Biden delivers inaugural address

WASHINGTON -- This is a transcript of the inaugural address by U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as prepared for delivery at Capitol Hill on Wednesday:

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans,

A day of history and hope.

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 will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this 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.

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.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took -- an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on 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, and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Few periods in our nation's history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we're in now.

A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.

It's 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.

A 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 in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges -- to restore the soul and to secure the future of America -- requires more than words.

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:

In another January in Washington, on New Year's Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the president said, "If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:

Bringing America together.

Uniting our people, and uniting our nation.

I ask every American to join me in this cause, uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

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.

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 and demonization have long torn us apart.

Through the 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 came together to carry all of us forward.

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 failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh. All of us.

Let us listen to one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not 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 a 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 better than this.

Just look around. Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured, and we prevailed.

Here we stand, looking out to 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 from marching for the right to vote.

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 National 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, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

To all those who supported our campaign, I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all 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. And 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 our 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.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

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 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 to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don't look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don't get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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.

If we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes just for a moment.

Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we're called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: As the Bible says, weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together.

The world is watching today. So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested, and we have 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.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And in my first act as president, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans -- mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers -- we will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.

The sting of systemic racism.

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 the gravest of responsibilities.

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must, and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It's a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It's called "American Anthem," and there is one verse that stands out for me:

of centuries have brought us to this day

What will our children say? .

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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 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 will defend our democracy.

I will give my all in your service, thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to the tasks of our time.

And devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.

May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.

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Read Joe Biden's full inaugural address: 'End this uncivil war'

Biden gave his first speech as the 46th president of the United States.

Kamala Harris makes history as vice president

Joseph R. Biden Jr., in his first address as president, made a sweeping call for unity, truth and racial justice as the nation faces one of its darkest hours in the midst of a raging pandemic and bitter political division.

The address came just days after the deadly siege of the Capitol, during which supporters of former President Donald Trump broke through police barriers and ransacked the building as Congress gathered to ratify Biden's election.

"Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy," Biden said. "The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded."

He went on, "We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed."

Biden, 78, also addressed the supporters of his predecessor.

“To all those who supported our campaign, I'm humbled by the faith you've placed in us," he said. "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."

Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. The reimagined inauguration ceremony, which featured Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Garth Brooks, poet Amanda Gorman and friends of the Bidens, was toned down in pomp and circumstance and smaller in size for safety and health concerns.

Millions of Americans tuned in at home to watch the historic inauguration.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Biden, with the president's wife, Jill, and children, Hunter and Ashley, by his side. Kamala Harris, the nation's first female, first Black and first Asian vice president, was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Here were Biden's prepared remarks to the nation.

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans.

A day of history and hope.

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 will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this 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.

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.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on 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 and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.

A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.

It’s 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.

A 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 in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:

In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:

Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

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.

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, and demonization have long torn us apart.

Through the 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 came together to carry all of us forward.

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 failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another. See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not 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 a 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 better than this.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.

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 National 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, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all 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.

And 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 our 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.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.

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 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 to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next. I get it.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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.

If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment. Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today.

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have 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.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on 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 the gravest of responsibilities.

Now we must step up. All of us.

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It’s called “American Anthem” and there is one verse stands out for me:

“The work and prayersof centuries have brought us to this dayWhat shall be our legacy?What will our children say?…Let me know in my heartWhen my days are throughAmericaAmericaI gave my best to you.”

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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 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 will defend our democracy.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.


President Biden’s Inaugural Address Gave America Reassurance and Hope

With Jill Biden holding the Bible, Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at the 2021 presidential inauguration, held at the US Capitol January 20. Moments before, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, while Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, held the Bible. Biden photo, AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Harris photo, Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP

President Joe Biden told the nation exactly what it needed to hear in his inaugural address on Wednesday—a message of reassurance, honesty, and hope, says BU historian Thomas Whalen.

A College of General Studies associate professor of social sciences, Whalen specializes in 19th- and 20th-century American social and political history, which has made him a sought-after expert for local media during these tumultuous months of impeachment, election, and insurrection.

BU Today asked Whalen for his thoughts on President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, how the whole thing looked on TV, and what he thinks about the future of American democracy now that Donald J. Trump has left town.

With Thomas Whalen

BU Today: Give us your review of the inauguration’s substance, particularly Biden’s speech and what it tells us about how he’ll govern.

Thomas Whalen: There were no real details. He was, as presidents usually do at inaugurations, giving broad strokes. It wasn’t a roadmap to where they’re going to take their administration—it was almost like a prayer. The speech was very plainspoken, and given from the heart, really quintessential Joe Biden. He was trying to be hopeful, yet realistic at the same time. Sprinkled throughout the speech was a spirit of generosity, or empathy, given everything that has happened in this country over the last few weeks. I think this is a tone that has been sorely lacking at the White House for the last four years. That message alone is a huge contrast to Trump’s “American carnage” four years ago.

A lot of people are saying the speech was Lincolnesque, reaching across the aisle, binding our nation’s wounds. It had elements of that, but I looked more to Franklin Roosevelt. Biden’s underlying message—given the pandemic, the economic collapse, the insurrection—was that we can’t be fearful as Americans. One of Roosevelt’s great points was his optimism, especially as he took over the country in the depths of the Great Depression in 1933, when it looked like our very democracy, our republic, was going to fall.

What Joe Biden was saying here was “freedom from fear.” He was taking the nation’s hand and squeezing it and saying it’s going to be all right. And we need that as a nation right now. And I think the speech delivered that. In terms of rhetoric, it wasn’t even as good as George W. Bush’s. But it did its job. Joe Biden is a smart enough politician to kind of throw away flowery rhetoric and get to the point—what do people want to hear? Given recent events, they want reassurance. And honesty, which was another touchstone of his speech. He’s saying, I’m going to be straight with you. What’s come before has been kind of a war on truth. He went out of his way to embrace reason, and compromise.

Lady Gaga performs the National Anthem at President Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Photo by Greg Nash/Pool Photo via AP

BU Today: OK, that’s the substance. But this is also politics, where pomp and circumstance and symbolism matter. What’s your take on how the inauguration played out on TV?

Because there’s no audience there, it’s all for television, and I think it did well. The president was kind of upstaged by the former National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. She’s going to be remembered for what she said, and I think that might be the only time in history that’s ever happened at an inaugural. We had some showstoppers there. I mean, Lady Gaga was terrific. I thought, J Lo—what a performance. And they represented a huge array of Americans. They looked like America, not a bunch of stuffed suits. Which was especially appropriate on a day when we have Kamala Harris, our first woman and first woman of color being sworn in as vice president.

Even Garth Brooks, wearing the hat. I can hear my late mother: “Who does he think he is! This is supposed to be a solemn affair.” But we need that kind of light touch.

The pageantry was all there, and it was also important that you had Vice President Mike Pence there. It shows that this is the punctuation mark to a peaceful transition of power. And you also had Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) there. Albeit sitting stonily, but at least he showed up. And we had Republican and Democratic presidents there. This was stage-managed to show that no matter what, we are all still Americans.

But I think there was a warning sign not to get too carried away here. Garth Brooks gave a great performance, but automatically, in the Twitterverse he was being criticized by his fan base. “How could you perform at Joe Biden’s inaugural?” That to me says it’s good that Joe Biden talked about unity, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Air Force One, with the outgoing president, Donald Trump, and his family on board, departs Andrews Air Force Base Wednesday morning. AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez

BU Today: You said you weren’t able to watch Trump’s departure in the morning, but what do you think of him making an early exit from Washington instead of attending the ceremony?

He came in as an outsider and leaves, quite literally, as an outsider, shorn of even his closest supporters in Washington, D.C. Even Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz, his staunchest supporters in fighting the certification of Biden’s victory, even they showed up at the inaugural. It reminds me of what Lyndon Johnson said: “Power is where power goes.” That has never changed in Washington.

Now Trump goes off to Florida, and it kind of reminded me of an old banana republic dictator sneaking off into exile. But according to the Wall Street Journal, he apparently has plans for starting a new party, the Patriot Party, because he’s so upset with the Republicans. And if you’re the Democrats, you’re doing handstands right now, because that’s going to divide the vote that usually goes to the Republican Party, which would guarantee Democratic successes at the ballot box.

But part of the poisonous legacy of Trump—and this is what concerns me most for the future of democracy—is that he has kind of laid out a blueprint on how to overturn fair and free democratic elections. If the Republicans were in charge in the House of Representatives, there is no doubt in my mind that Joe Biden’s victory would not have been certified. They would have overturned it and thrown it to Trump. And that would have caused a crisis that would have made what happened on Capitol Hill on January 6 look like a pillow fight. I fear that now that’s possible let’s hope we never get to the brink again. It just underscores that we have to get rid of the Electoral College, an archaic instrument that serves no purpose in a country that has embraced full-on democracy.

BU Today: You’ve been very busy of late, your analysis sought by all kinds of media, including this one. Any plans to take a couple of weeks off?

This month has been especially crazy, but really, since the election it’s been a full-on sprint to the finish. But I have to teach starting on Monday. It’s almost as if teaching is going to be my vacation, but that’s OK, because the students always revitalize me. If I’m feeling down or lacking energy, just getting into the classroom, even if it’s a hybrid, always recharges my batteries. That’s what I’m hoping. We’ll see.


READ: Biden's inaugural address

President Biden Joe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE on Wednesday delivered his first speech after being sworn in at the Capitol.

Biden urged "unity" in his inaugural address, which lasted roughly 20 minutes.

"We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors," he urged. "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."

Read the full speech, as prepared for delivery and provided by the Biden administration, below:

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice President Pence, distinguished guests, and my fellow Americans.

A day of history and hope.

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 will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this 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.

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.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

You know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on 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 and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go.

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.

A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.

It’s 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.

A 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 in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.

It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy:

In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the President said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:

Bringing America together.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care
secure for all.

We can deliver racial justice.

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.

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, and demonization have long torn us apart.

Through the 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 came together to carry all of us forward.

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 failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another.
See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not 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 a 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 better than this.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.

Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office – Vice President Kamala Harris Kamala HarrisBiden, Harris send well wishes for Father's Day The U.S. and Mexico must revamp institutions supporting their joint efforts Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation MORE .

Don’t tell me things can’t change.

Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington National 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, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all 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.

And 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 our 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.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

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 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 to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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.

If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment.
Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.

And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today.

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have 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.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.

And, in my first act as President, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.

Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.

The sting of systemic racism.

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 the gravest of responsibilities.

It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It’s called “American Anthem” and there is one verse stands out for me:

“The work and prayers
of centuries 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 us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our 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 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 will defend our democracy.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.

And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.


The President's inaugural address: 'I will be a president for all Americans'

CLOSE

President Joe Biden pledged to be "a president for all Americans" in his 21-minute inauguration speech. USA TODAY

Editor's note: This address was delivered by President Joe Biden at his inaugural on Wednesday.

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice President Harris. Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, McConnell, Vice President Pence, my distinguished guests and 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. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

From 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 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, 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.

President Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press Pool)

I've just taken the sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath, first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on 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're in now. A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country. It's 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 four hundred 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 and 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 I quote, “If my name ever goes down into history, it'll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul is in it 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.

President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address after he was sworn-in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo: Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, 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 work and rebuild the middle class and make health care 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're 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 wars, 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've acted together.

And so today at this time in this place, let's start afresh, 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 in 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 marked 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 those who supported our campaign, I'm humbled by the faith you've placed in us. To all 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 — those 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. Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that people were 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.

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 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 in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, can I keep my health care? 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 sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, 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're 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're called to lend a hand. That's how it has to be. That's 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're going to need each other. We need all our strength to to persevere through this dark winter. We're 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 this, as the Bible says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We will get through this together. Together.

Look, folks, all my colleagues I served with in the House and the Senate up there, we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today. So here's 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, but 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 my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic. Those four hundred thousand fellow Americans — moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors and coworkers. We will honor them by becoming the people and 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, 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 will be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we've 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.

Will we 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 a 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. Let 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 the day 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 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 as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.


Joe Biden's Inaugural Address

Chief Justice Roberts, Vice-President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice-President Pence, my distinguished guests and 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 will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

Play media

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed. From 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 the resilience of our Constitution and the strength of our nation—as does President Carter, whom I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime in service.

I’ve just taken the sacred oath each of those patriots has taken—the oath first sworn by George Washington—but the American story depends not on 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’re in now. A 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 four hundred years in the making—moves us: the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A 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 that 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 I quote, “If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it”—my whole soul is in it. 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—anger, 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 work and rebuild the middle class and make health care 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 all are created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear and demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured. Through the 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, 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’ve acted together.

So today, at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, 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 in 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 marked 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 those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you’ve placed in us. To all 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. 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, Saint 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.

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 that like my dad, they lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling—wondering: “Can I keep my health care? 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 who don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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’re 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’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. 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’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to to persevere through this dark winter. We’re 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 this, as the Bible says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”. We will get through this together—together. Look, folks—all my colleagues I served with in the House and the Senate up here—we all understand the world is watching, watching all of us today. So here’s 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—to meet not yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges—and we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power but 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. In my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those whom we lost this past year to the pandemic: those four hundred thousand fellow Americans—moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We’ll honor them by becoming the people and 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. Amen.

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 that we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve 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.

Will we 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 works and prayers of centuries
⁠ 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. Let 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 the day 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 my all, all of you, to keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities, not of personal interest but the public good.

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—and that America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forebears, one another and generations to follow.

So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.