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With a call on Americans to come together and dismiss the tide of extremism and racism, Joe Biden yesterday took the oath as the 46th President of the United States (U.S.).
He pledged to work “as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as for those who did”.
Kamala Harris, who is the first woman-vice president, was also inaugurated as the 49th, person to occupy the office.
Biden, 78, made history as the oldest person to be elected U.S. president. His road to commander-in-chief was long and windy – two failed presidential campaigns and two terms as Obama’s vice president.
Prior to his presidential bids, Biden spent decades in the U.S. Senate after being first elected in 1972. He was elected President 48 years after winning his first Senate election, receiving the most votes ever cast for a U.S. presidential ticket.
He was sworn in by the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just before noon. He took the oath with his wife holding a 127-year-old family Bible.
He told the nation and the millions of people watching all over the world, that ‘democracy has prevailed’ after a troubling few weeks and months.
Biden said: “A new America has risen to the challenge today. We celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.
“The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learnt again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, our democracy has prevailed.”
Biden urged Americans to come together and dismiss the tide of extremism and racism, and pledged to work ‘as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as for those who did’.
He said: “My whole soul is in this, bringing America together. I ask every American to join me in this cause. To fight the foes we face: anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.
“With unity, we can do great things, important things, we can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus.
Referencing, though not by name, the legacy of the Donald Trump administration and the attacks on the Capitol on January 6, Biden said ‘there is truth and there are lies’, and that it was time to heal divisions.
He added: “Each of us has a duty…to defend the truth and defeat the lies. We must end this uncivil war that pits red versus blue. In the work ahead, we’re going to need each other.”
Vice President Mike Pence, 61, attended the inauguration at the U.S. Capitol, exactly two weeks after the violent riots that President Donald Trump incited that led to his second impeachment.
He skipped the final salute for President Trump before his departure from Washington
Biden’s inauguration, themed “America United,” was attended by all living presidents except 96-year-old Jimmy Carter.
Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton were also there.
Carter, who left office in 1980, and his wife Rosalynn, sent their well-wishes. It was the first time in 44 years they would not attend presidential inauguration.
Biden announced that he spoke with Carter on the eve of the inauguration and he wished his team best of luck.
Lady Gaga performed a dramatic version of the U.S. national anthem while Garth Brooks sang a cappella at the inauguration.
Gaga, known for her flamboyant outfits, was in a huge fuchsia skirt and black top adorned by a large gold dove as she stepped up to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
.Country singer Brooks, a Republican, took off his black Stetson hat to sing an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace” and asked Americans at the ceremony and watching at home to sing along with him for the last verse.
Jennifer Lopez, dressed in white pants and a long matching coat, performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America The Beautiful,” as well as saying part of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.
Trump, in his last moment as U.S. President, vowed ‘we will be back – in some form’ before flying out of Washington D.C. on Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago
“Have a good life,” he told a crowd of few supporters at Joint Base Andrews, after listing his ‘achievements’ in a speech which began after a 21-gun salute.
In the front row, Ivanka Trump cried, while behind the mask-less crowd chanted “thank you Trump.”
Biden’s will undo a number of Trump policies, including ending the construction of ‘The Wall’ between Mexico and the U.S., stopping the travel ban from some Muslim-majority countries, and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He will sign 15 executive orders – joining just two other presidents in signing executive actions on their first day, who only signed one each.
Biden is also expected to review all of Trump’s regulations and executive actions, in particular any of those that are potentially damaging to the environment or to public health.
Federal agencies will be ordered to prioritise racial equality and review any policies seen to reinforce systemic racism.
Biden will also revoke an order that Trump used in the hope of excluding non-citizens from the census.
Trump became only the fourth president in history, after John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson in 1869, to boycott the inauguration of their successor.
However, White House staff confirmed that Trump left a note in office for Biden.
This meant he was unable, as is tradition, to hand over the ‘Nuclear Football’ to President Biden.
The briefcase contains the equipment the President would use to order a nuclear attack, including plans, access to command, and control systems, as well as the mechanism for authorising the nuclear codes.
The President must also carry the “Nuclear Biscuit” – a plastic card containing codes that identify the President and give him the authority to authorise a nuclear attack – at all times.