Joseph Robinette Biden Jr has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, promising to marshal a spirit of national unity to guide the country through one of the most perilous chapters in American history.
Speaking under a bright winter sky, as snow flurries melted and the clouds parted, Biden declared “democracy has prevailed” during a ceremony that honored the ritual transfer of power at the US Capitol, where exactly two weeks ago a swarm of supporters loyal to his predecessor stormed the building in a violent and futile last stand to overturn the results of the election.
“This is America’s day,” Biden said, gazing across the sprawl of the capital city’s national monuments, now guarded by a military garrison unprecedented in modern times and devoid of spectators as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “This is democracy’s day.”
Millions of Americans watched from home as the Chief Justice John Roberts administered the 35-word oath of office to Biden, moments before noon, when he formally inherited the powers of the presidency. Everyone in attendance, including Biden, wore masks and guests sat apart in the audience.
“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,” he said, promising to dedicate his “whole soul” to rebuilding a country ravaged by disease, economic turmoil, racial inequality and political division.
Donald Trump, who never formally conceded his defeat, left the White House on Wednesday morning and was not in attendance, a final display of irreverence for the traditions and norms that have long shaped the presidency. Mike Pence, the outgoing vice-president, was there, joined by the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas.
The Biden era dawned in what the president called a “winter of peril and significant possibilities”. He vowed to move forward with the “speed and urgency” required to meet the moment.
That work began just hours after his inauguration. From the Oval Office, Biden signed 17 executive orders and directives, moving swiftly to dismantle the most controversial pieces of his predecessor’s legacy.