President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday afternoon, taking office at a moment of deep-rooted political polarization in America following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building.
“This is democracy’s day,” Biden said in his inaugural address, reflecting upon what he called the “cascading crises” of the past year — including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crash and racial inequity, along with the insurrection that led to then-President Donald Trump’s second impeachment on Jan. 13.
Prior to the ceremony, Biden tweeted “It’s a new day in America.”
The tweet came minutes after Trump left the White House for the last time as president. Trump did not attend the inauguration, though former Vice President Mike Pence did. The last president to intentionally skip a successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869 due to animosity between him and his successor, Ulysses Grant, after being on opposing sides during the Civil War.
In his inaugural address, Biden thanked his supporters and acknowledged his commitment to all Americans, including those who did not support him. Biden emphasized the democratic right to dissent peacefully while maintaining a union.
“I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as those who did,” Biden said. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue … We have never failed in America when we have acted together.”
LSA junior Ryan Fisher, chair of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Republicans, reiterated Biden’s call for unity in an email to The Michigan Daily.
“We wish for a peaceful transition to the Biden Administration, one that hopefully will be characterized by the unity and cultural healing that Biden spoke of so frequently,” Fisher said.
During his speech, Biden also denounced extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism, saying the country will confront these issues during his tenure.
“We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured,” Biden said.
LSA sophomore Kenny Larson, a director of research and operations for the University of Michigan’s chapter of Students for Biden, said watching the inauguration was a surreal moment, particularly as Biden took his oath.
“I think really the most impactful moment was just hearing him sit down and say the words of oath,” Larson said. “It was really impactful for me not only as a citizen and a voter, but as an American and Joe Biden supporter, to hear someone that I genuinely believe will actually live up to the presidential and constitutional oath that he’s taking.”
Biden closed the speech with a silent prayer for the over 400,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 and with an oath to the country.
“I give my word that I will always level with you,” Biden said. “I will defend the constitution, I’ll defend our democracy, I’ll defend America.”
This transition of power came after Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president, making history as the first female, Black and South Asian American vice president in American history.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was appointed co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, attended the inauguration.
“The country is ready for a leader who listens to medical experts to lead our country’s COVID-19 response and works on behalf of hard-working Americans,” Whitmer said in a Tuesday press release. “I am honored to attend the inauguration … and ready to begin working closely with each of them to fight this virus, save lives, and put the country back on track.”
Prior to the inauguration, LSA sophomore Julia Schettenhelm, a representative from the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said she was proud of the new leadership but said there is more work to be done.
“We are looking forward to the next four years under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris,” Schettenhelm said. “While today is a day to celebrate, we also acknowledge that there is a lot of work that needs to be done going forward.”
Following the ceremony, Biden signed 17 executive orders, more than any other modern president on his first day. These sweeping executive orders seek to unwind policies issued by Trump administration, including halting construction of the wall along the Mexican-American border, reversing travel bans that target Muslim-majority countries and imposing a mask mandate on federal property. Biden also announced the U.S. would be rejoining international agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement and realigning with the World Health Organization.
Larson said he felt Biden’s plan for the first day set a promising precedent for the months to come.
“I think that Joe Biden’s gonna have a very bold plan and that that agenda will hopefully hit the ground running in the first 100 days,” Larson said.
Daily Staff Reporters Iulia Dobrin and Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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