Biden's battle to 'restore the soul of the nation' has just begun.
Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, marking a new hopeful era for a country besieged with chaos and a still-raging pandemic.
The monumental event took place two weeks to the day after pro-Donald Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent insurrection that left five people dead.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used the same bible on Wednesday that Biden used seven times for his swearing in ceremonies as Delaware senator and twice as vice president under former President Barack Obama, according to the CBC.
Biden spent the morning at a church service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. First Lady Jill Biden, newly sworn-in Vice President Kamala Harris — the first Black and South Asian person and first woman to hold the position — second gentlemen Doug Emhoff, and other prominent members of Congress joined him
They were scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery following the ceremony.
Biden's predecessor Trump did not attend the inaugural ceremony. He left the White House earlier in the morning after giving a short speech at Joint Base Andrews, ending his term the way it began, pushing lies and making racist references, before heading to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Under the inaugural theme of "Celebrating America," Biden has pledged to unite the county after a divisive election and the traumatic events at the Capitol.
His battle to "restore the soul of the nation" is just beginning.
The task won't be easy. On Tuesday, the country passed a grim milestone of 400,000 total COVID-19 deaths, with more than 24 million coronavirus cases to date, and millions out of work due to the pandemic. That evening, Biden and the first lady, along with the vice president and her husband, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool to memorialize the COVID dead and honor the frontline workers battling the virus on a daily basis.
"To heal we must remember," Biden said.
Biden is also tasked with repairing the damage done by the Trump administration, both in terms of its botched pandemic response, which Trump constantly defended as adequate, and the racism and political divisions plaguing the country.
"I will work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as for those who did," Biden said after his swearing in on Wednesday.
Those remarks were made more significant by the background of National Guard troops assigned to secure the Capitol and National Mall, following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. The attack was spurred on by Trump himself, who had for months pushed lies of widespread election fraud, largely targeting majority Black and brown U.S. cities.
Pro-Trump, white supremacist extremists had threatened to carry out acts of violence in the days leading up to the inauguration, forcing federal authorities to shut down swaths of the downtown region surrounding the Capitol as well as at statehouses across the country.
With threats still looming, Biden said Wednesday that it was the country's biggest responsibility to move forward together to heal and repair those rifts, despite individual differences.
"We have much to do in this winter of peril … much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain," he said. "...America has to be better than this, and I believe America is so much better than this."
He added, "To all those who did not support this, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward, take a measure of me and my heart. If we still disagree, so be it, that's democracy, that's America."
With additional reporting by Melanie Schmitz.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.