Joe Biden has been sworn in as president of the United States, pledging to unite a deeply divided nation reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Raising his right hand and placing his left on a Bible, Biden took the oath of office on Wednesday during a scaled-down inauguration due to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 400,000 people in the US.
“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,” Biden said in his first address as president. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” he said. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and first person of colour to hold the post, was sworn in shortly before Biden.
In an extremely rare move, Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, chose to not attend the ceremony. Trump left the White House early on Wednesday morning, travelling on the Marine One helicopter to a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, before flying to Florida. He briefly spoke to reporters, calling his term the “honour of a lifetime” and an “amazing four years”. “I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening,” Trump said, adding: “We will be back in some form.” The inauguration took place amid ongoing security concerns in the US capital in the aftermath of a deadly riot on January 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as Congress met to certify Biden’s election victory.
Trump was impeached last week by the US House of Representatives for “incitement to insurrection” in relation to the Capitol attack. Thousands of security forces were deployed in Washington, DC for the inauguration, giving a strange feeling to what is normally a celebratory event enjoyed by thousands of people. Biden has promised to overturn several Trump administration policies, including rescinding the so-called “Muslim ban” barring entry into the US for citizens from Muslim-majority countries, as well as rejoining the Paris climate accord.
In his first tweet as president, he said: “There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.” Biden also pledged to unite the country and urged Trump’s supporters on Wednesday to give him a chance. “To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out,” he said during his address. “I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”