By Spy Uganda Correspondent
USA: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, taking office at a moment of profound economic, health and political crises with a promise to seek unity after a tumultuous four years that tore at the fabric of American society.
With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Mr. Biden recited the 35-word oath of office swearing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” in a ceremony administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., completing the process shortly before noon.
The ritual transfer of power came soon after Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in as vice president by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, her hand on a Bible that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights icon and Supreme Court justice. Ms. Harris’s ascension made her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States and the first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation’s second-highest office.
“This is America’s day,” Mr. Biden said as he began his Inaugural Address. “This is democracy’s day.”
After a deeply turbulent transition, including the storming of the Capitol by supporters of now-former President Donald J. Trump, “democracy has prevailed,” Mr. Biden said, in a speech that immediately laid out the contrast between himself and his predecessor.
“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now,” Mr. Biden said, before explicitly acknowledging the devastating toll of the coronavirus in a way Mr. Trump never did.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words,” Mr. Biden added. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”
Mr. Biden’s plea for the country to come together echoed a defining theme of his presidential campaign, a message that has only taken on greater urgency in recent weeks.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” he said. “We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
Mr. Trump once again defied tradition by leaving Washington hours before the swearing-in of his successor rather than face the reality of his own election defeat, although Mike Pence, his vice president, did attend.
“Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Don’t tell me things can’t change.” Vice President Kamala Harris said.
Many expect Mr. Biden will also rely on her prosecutorial chops and her personal energy as a crucial member of the administration. And given speculation that Mr. Biden, who is 78, may not seek a second term, Ms. Harris is sure to face intense scrutiny over her own political future.
“That’s so important, to have a Black woman, a South Asian woman’s perspective, on the big issues that this administration has to tackle,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and a longtime ally of Ms. Harris’s. “She’ll bring a justice lens, a racial justice lens, racial equity, to everything and every policy and every decision that’s going to be made.”