Washington: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. became the 46th U.S. president on Wednesday, completing the most daunting power transfer in recent American history.
Inaugurated in a fortified Washington under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, the 78-year-old Democrat took the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol in front of a sparse bipartisan crowd.
He enters the White House exactly two weeks after a mob inflamed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol, disrupting the transition to Biden’s administration and leaving five people dead.
Biden took the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, with his left hand on a family Bible. Speaking after he became president, he declared, “Democracy has prevailed.”
“On this hallowed ground 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 more than two centuries,” Biden said.
Biden, the oldest American president, faces swirling crises as he and Vice President Kamala Harris take power. At 56, she becomes the first woman, first Black American and first South Asian American to become vice president.
Biden will try to streamline the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history to contain a virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives nationwide. He will aim to boost an economy in which about 18 million people are receiving unemployment benefits and food banks experience demand unseen in decades.
Biden will try to implement a broad agenda while navigating a country where millions of people, including members of Congress, fed disinformation by Trump question the legitimacy of his victory in the November election. In his inaugural address, the president said the country must “reject the culture where facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
Biden called on Americans to “defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
The Democrat Biden won the presidency in November in his third try. His first attempt came during the 1988 presidential cycle, followed by a 2008 primary loss to his future boss Barack Obama.
Biden served two terms as Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017. He took the job after 36 years in the Senate representing Delaware, a state Biden has said “will be written on [his] heart.” Biden joined the Senate when he was 30.
Trump’s presence loomed over the day’s ceremonies. He became the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 not to attend his successor’s inauguration.
He left the White House for Florida on Thursday morning, hours before Biden took his oath of office. After he gave brief remarks to supporters, Trump lifted off in Air Force One while Biden attended a Catholic mass with masked Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. (With inputs from AFP, CNBC)
Picture Credit Associated Press