'...And if you still disagree': Joe Biden's message of democracy for detractors
"This is America's day, democracy's day," the 46th President of the United States said beginning his address, minutes after his swearing-in at the US Capitol which witnessed unprecedented violence just a few days ago. But Biden's speech was all about hopes, dreams, rebuilding the country ensuring racial justice.
"Today we celebrate a triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause. The cause of democracy. We have learnt again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile. But democracy has prevailed. People's will has been heeded and answered," Biden said to rousing applause.
"So now 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," he said.
Watch Joe Biden's inauguration speech after taking oath as 46th US President
"Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found the time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. Once in a century virus that silently stalks the country. It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II," he said.
For a moment, Biden became emotional as he mentioned Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. "In another January, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote, “if my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause," he said.
'A foolish fantasy'
If there is one recurring element in his speech, it is unity that he emphasised again and again. "Speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart," he said.
'America has to be better than this'
"America has to be better than this. And I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome as was mentioned earlier, completed amid the Civil War, when union itself was literally hanging in the balance. Yet we endured. We prevailed. Here we stand looking out on the Great Mall where Dr King spoke of his dream. 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 history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change," he said.
What unifies America?
"Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love? That define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honour. And, yes, the truth," he said.
'Hear me out'
Biden also had a message for those who didn't support him. "Hear me out. take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree, well that's democracy. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our republic is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. Yet hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you, I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans..... I am a President for all Americans, including those who didn't support me," he said.
"Don't turn inward, don't destroy those who don't look like you, or those who don't worship the same god or those who don't get news from where you do. ..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. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment stand in their shoes. Because here’s this thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, when you need a hand, there are other days when we’re called to lend a hand.," Biden said.
The first address of the 46th President of the United States was not devoid of diplomatic messages as well. "We all understand the world is watching us today. The world is watching America. We want to say America has been tested and emerged stronger. We will repair alliances. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security. Look, you all know we’ve been through so much in this nation," Biden said and then urged everyone to join him in a silent prayer for all those who lost their lives in the pandemic.
In his prayer, Biden mentioned all the challenges the country is facing today like a pandemic, racial injustices political extremism and domestic terror. But what marks the situation more critical is that all these challenges have been hurled upon the country all at once. But America will emerge triumphant, Joe Biden said.
"My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with the sacred oath before God and all of you: I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America. And I’ll give all, all of you, keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but the public good," he concluded.