US President Joe Biden called for “unity” moments after his inauguration in Washington on Wednesday, warning of the challenges ahead as he takes on multiple crises.
“This is America’s day, this is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope,” he said on the steps of the US Capitol after his swearing-in.
But as the US confronts the deadly coronavirus and deep political divisions he warned that to overcome its challenges will require “so much more than words, it will require the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity.”
In his speech, the 78-year-old heralded a new dawn.
“My fellow Americans, this is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” he said as former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton watched on.
There was one notable absentee from proceedings — Donald Trump was not present to witness the event in an extraordinary break with tradition. He is the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson in 1869.
Biden was quick to reference the violent events of two weeks ago at the Capitol when angry Trump supporters stormed the meeting place of the United States Congress, resulting in the deaths of five people.
“On this hallowed ground,” Biden continued, “where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for centuries.”