WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were officially sworn into office Wednesday in a heavily-guarded but sparsely attended ceremony at the US Capitol.
Security for the ceremony was markedly increased with 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. to secure the area after former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to thwart a constitutionally-mandated procedure before Biden assumed office.
“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” Biden said shortly after he took the oath of office. “Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.”
Five people died in the insurrection, including a Capitol Police officer. The other deaths were of Trump supporters, one of whom was shot by security.
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile,” Biden said. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed. On this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation we’ve come together as one nation under God, indivisible to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”
Trump departed the White House earlier Wednesday for the state of Florida, opting to break with a tradition that embodies the US’s peaceful transfer of power by not participating in the inaugural events.
Normally, the outgoing and incoming presidents ride to the Capitol building together to participate in the inauguration ceremony. The tradition has been in place “with few exceptions” since 1837, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Hundreds of thousands of people usually attend the ceremony every four years, but this year the general public was asked to celebrate at home as the US continues to find itself in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the country.
Biden vowed to face the health crisis head-on, saying the “once in a century virus” is “stalking” the US, and has claimed as many American lives as were lost in World War II.
The president will be confronting the virus’ grim realities as the country has been deeply fractured during the past four years, and even the donning of protective face coverings has become a highly politicized issue.
In urging Americans to unite, Biden noted the rising threats posed by “political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism,” saying they must be confronted and defeated.
“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,” he said. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” (Anadolu)