Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, vowing to end the "uncivil war" in a deeply divided country. With his hand on a five-inch thick heirloom Bible that has been in his family for more than a century, Biden took the oath of office administered by US Chief Justice John Roberts that binds the president to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States".
"Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge," Biden said in his inaugural address. "Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy... . At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed."
While Donald Trump was absent, leading Republicans, including Vice-President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, attended the inauguration, along with former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downtown, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.
After a bitter campaign marked by Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud, Biden struck a conciliatory tone, asking Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance to be their president as well.
"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. 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.
"Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen; it will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."