USA TODAY International Edition

‘ This is Amer­ica’s day’: Bi­den is 46th pres­i­dent

- Courtney Subra­ma­nian and John Fritze Con­tribut­ing: Led­yard King, Joey Gar­ri­son, Mau­reen Groppe

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den as­serted that “democ­racy has pre­vailed” Wed­nes­day af­ter he was in­au­gu­rated the 46th pres­i­dent of the United States, call­ing for Amer­i­cans to unite and con­front the per­ilous chal­lenges be­fore them: the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, eco­nomic tur­moil and di­vi­sions over Amer­i­can lead­er­ship.

Bi­den takes the helm at a pre­car­i­ous mo­ment in U. S. his­tory, as the na­tion strug­gles with a virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives. He en­ters the White House amid fall­out from a vi­o­lent at­tack on the U. S. Capi­tol by a mob of sup­port­ers of for­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, un­der­scor­ing ten­sions in pol­i­tics that Bi­den must nav­i­gate if he hopes to ad­vance his am­bi­tious agenda.

“This is Amer­ica’s day. This is democ­racy’s day. A day of his­tory and hope, of re­newal and re­solve,” Bi­den de­clared in his 21- minute in­au­gu­ral ad­dress.

Stand­ing on the steps of the Capi­tol, where ri­ot­ers ran­sacked its hal­lowed halls two weeks ago, Bi­den was sworn in by Chief Jus­tice John Roberts in an aus­tere cer­e­mony stripped of much of its pomp and cir­cum­stance be­cause of the pan­demic. The oth­er­wise cer­e­mo­nial peace­ful trans­fer of power had the feel of a war zone, ringed by large se­cu­rity fences near the Na­tional Mall. More than 25,000 Na­tional Guard mem­bers were called in over se­cu­rity con­cerns af­ter the Capi­tol siege Jan. 6.

“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,” Bi­den said. “We’ve learned again that democ­racy is pre­cious. Democ­racy is frag­ile. At this hour, my friends, democ­racy has pre­vailed.”

De­spite the ab­sence of cheer­ing sup­port­ers, Bi­den struck a hope­ful tone through­out his first ad­dress as pres­i­dent, hit­ting on his cam­paign theme of unity and vow­ing his “whole soul” is in­vested in try­ing to bring peo­ple to­gether. Touch­ing on an idea of­ten raised by past pres­i­dents but largely miss­ing over the past four years, Bi­den pledged to be a “pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans,” fight­ing as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as those who did.

“We must end this un­civil war that pits red against blue,” he said, “ru­ral ver­sus ur­ban, con­ser­va­tive ver­sus lib­eral.”

Bi­den’s team made his­tory be­fore it even stepped into the White House: Vice Pres­i­dent Ka­mala Har­ris was sworn in as the first woman, first Black Amer­i­can and first South Asian Amer­i­can to hold the office. Har­ris, the daugh­ter of an In­dian mother and a Ja­maican fa­ther, was sworn in by Supreme Court Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor, a trail­blazer in her own right as the first Latina on the high court.

As snow flur­ries filled the chilly Wash­ing­ton air, Bi­den thanked pres­i­dents from both par­ties for at­tend­ing the event, ab­sent his most re­cent pre­de­ces­sor.

Trump skipped the in­au­gu­ra­tion, break­ing with more than 150 years of tra­di­tion, hav­ing left ear­lier in the day for Florida. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, at­tended, along with other prom­i­nent figures – such as

Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif. – who not only op­posed Bi­den’s can­di­dacy but also em­braced Trump’s ev­i­dence- free claims of elec­tion fraud for weeks af­ter the elec­tion Nov. 3.

“You talked about the ten­sion and divi­sion,” McCarthy said as he con­grat­u­lated Bi­den and, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, D- Md., pre­sented a framed photograph of the in­au­gu­ra­tion as a gift. “Our task as lead­ers is to bind this na­tion’s wounds and ded­i­cate our­selves to the values that all Amer­i­cans share to­gether.”

For­mer Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton, Ge­orge W. Bush and Barack Obama were in at­ten­dance. Bi­den saluted for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, 96, who could not at­tend but spoke to the in­com­ing pres­i­dent Tues­day night.

The for­mer pres­i­dents and their spouses joined Bi­den and Har­ris in a solemn wreath- lay­ing cer­e­mony at the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery, a stark re­minder of how Trump re­mains a po­lit­i­cal out­sider in the world’s most ex­clu­sive club.

Bi­den, 78, re­cited the oath of office over a 5- inch- thick Bi­ble that has been in his fam­ily since 1893. He de­liv­ered re­marks sharply differ­ent from the words Trump used at his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress four years ago, when he painted a pic­ture of “Amer­i­can car­nage” and “empty talk” per­vad­ing Wash­ing­ton.

Trump left the White House for his Mar- a- Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, hours be­fore Bi­den’s swear­ing- in.

Speak­ing for nine min­utes at Joint Base An­drews in sub­ur­ban Mary­land, Trump wished Bi­den suc­cess – with­out us­ing his name – and touted his own ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­com­plish­ments.

“I wish the new ad­min­is­tra­tion great luck and great suc­cess. I think they’ll have great suc­cess,” Trump told a few hun­dred sup­port­ers. “They have the foun­da­tion to do some­thing re­ally spec­tac­u­lar.”

Trump once again flirted with his own fu­ture in pol­i­tics.

“A good­bye. We love you,” he said. “We will be back in some form.”

For Bi­den, the in­au­gu­ra­tion rep­re­sented tri­umph over ad­ver­sity and the pay­off that can come with per­sis­tence. His 2020 bid for pres­i­dent was the third of his long ca­reer in Wash­ing­ton, in­clud­ing 36 years as a se­na­tor from Delaware and eight years as vice pres­i­dent un­der Obama. Bi­den held off on a pres­i­den­tial bid in 2016, not­ing his fam­ily’s grief af­ter the death of his son Beau, the for­mer Delaware at­tor­ney gen­eral, in 2015.

Though the tra­di­tional in­au­gu­ral pa­rade from the U. S. Capi­tol to the White House was limited over coro­n­avirus con­cerns, Bi­den marched into the Oval Office to take part in an­other rit­ual for new pres­i­dents: un­wind­ing the work of the last guy. Aides said Bi­den will re­store the U. S. re­la­tion­ship with the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, re­join the Paris cli­mate ac­cord and re­verse travel re­stric­tions on sev­eral pre­dom­i­nately Mus­lim coun­tries.

“To­gether we shall write an Amer­i­can story of hope, not fear, of unity, not divi­sion,” he said. “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.”

“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.” Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den

 ?? ROBERT DEUTSCH/ USA TO­DAY ?? At his in­au­gu­ra­tion Wed­nes­day, Joe Bi­den prom­ises to be a “pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans,” not just mem­bers of his own party.
ROBERT DEUTSCH/ USA TO­DAY At his in­au­gu­ra­tion Wed­nes­day, Joe Bi­den prom­ises to be a “pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans,” not just mem­bers of his own party.

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