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Unity is the path forward: Biden in maiden speech as US prez

By Lalit K Jha
Last updated on: January 21, 2021 02:32 IST
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"Democracy has prevailed," newly inaugurated United States President Joe Biden said on Wednesday in his maiden speech as he vowed to unite and heal a deeply divided nation.

IMAGE: US President Joe Biden delivers his speech after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Speaking shortly after taking oath as the 46th president of the United States, 78-year-old Biden also pledged to repair America's global alliances, which suffered during his predecessor Donald Trump's four-year regime.

"This is America's day. This is democracy's day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve," Biden said in his maiden speech as the US President.

"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," he said.

"We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said, apparently referring to Trump's efforts to deny him victory in the November 3 election won by him.

Trump, who lost his re-election bid to Democratic opponent, never conceded his defeat. Instead, he made unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in elections, charges dismissed by authorities and some senior members of his own Republican Party.

In his speech that lasted for 21 minutes, Biden praised Americans for rising to the challenge and reclaiming democracy.

He mentioned the attempt to undo it at that exact location two weeks ago, referring to the violent attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Trump on January 6.

Biden renewed his campaign goals of overcoming the pandemic, bringing racial justice and fighting climate change.

"With unity we can do great things,” he said referring to the challenges ahead of him from fighting the coronavirus to addressing racial injustice.

"Unity is the path forward," he asserted, laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation.

Biden asserted that he will be the president for all Americans, all those who voted for him and those who did not vote for him.

He said the nation "must confront” white supremacy. “The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” the US president said.

He pointed to Kamala Harris being sworn in as vice-president as an indication of how much positive change the nation can achieve. "Don't tell me things can't change," Biden said.

Biden also criticised those who have stoked anger and division, and asked those who opposed him to "hear me out."

He called out those who lie for political power and profit. "There is truth, and there are lies,” he added.

In a message to the international community, Biden said that he would rebuild the alliances frayed over the past four years. "We can make America once again the leading force of good in the world."

"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,” he said.

"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," he said in his message to the international community.

America, he asserted, has been tested, and has come out stronger for it. The President led a moment of silence for the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19, and promised not to lie to Americans. "I give you my word: I will always level with you," he said.

"Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge,” he said.

Biden said that he knows the resilience of the Constitution and the strength, the strength of the nation.

"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,” he said.

"Few people in our nation's history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now. 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 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” he said.

"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, 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,” he said.

He urged every American to unite to fight the foes the country faces, anger, resentment, and hatred.

Photographs: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, Jim Bourg/Reuters

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Lalit K Jha
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