On 20 January 2020, Joe Biden was sworn in as the U.S. President at the Capitol in Washington. Approximately 25,000 troops were stationed at the inauguration after the riot at the Capitol on 6 January. Kamala Harris also took her oath, becoming the first female vice-president. The ceremony was attended by some high profile guests, such as Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Former president Donald Trump did not attend the inauguration, but Mike Pence was present. Performers included Lady Gaga, who sang the U.S. national anthem, as well as Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old who was the first National Youth Poet Laureate, is the youngest poet to have performed at a presidential inauguration.
During his first speech as president, Biden stated “this is democracy’s day,” however, he confirmed that the U.S. “has much to do in this winter of peril, much to repair.” Biden also spoke of the rise in white supremacy in America, stating that this must be confronted with caution over manufactured facts. Acknowledging the large number of Americans who voted for Donald Trump, Biden said that “I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, stated that Biden was “walking a tightrope” in his first speech as president. Sopel added that, rather than explicitly mentioning Trump and “Trumpism,” Biden “was instead reaching out to Trump’s supporters, telling them that he’ll be governing for all Americans.” Like Biden, Sopel highlighted the struggle ahead to unite a country where fact and fiction are contested.
President Biden has already signed 17 executive orders, reversing some of Trump’s existing policies. The first order addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing a number of measures, such as enforced mask-wearing on all federal government property and the creation of a new office tasked with coordinating the coronavirus response. Biden has also stopped Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Health Organization (WHO), which UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stated was “absolutely critical” to promote a global response to the pandemic.
Biden also withdrew the permit granted to the Keystone XL Pipeline which has been opposed by Native American groups and environmentalists for over a decade. Obama had previously vetoed the approval to build the pipeline in 2015, however, Trump repealed this decision.
Biden has cited climate change as a priority of his campaign and administration and he has started the process of rejoining the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2020 and Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, tweeted that the move to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement would help to restore “America’s credibility and commitment.”
President Biden has also withdrawn the funding for the construction of the wall along the Mexican border, as well as revoking a travel ban which Trump placed on a number of majority-Muslim countries.
Going forward, the Biden administration must create and implement policies which cannot be revoked by future presidents, in order to preserve the democracy that Biden wishes to reinstate. The President must work closely with Congress to enact legislative change with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. citizenship for undocumented migrants, the protection of voting rights and the reform of the healthcare sector.
Despite the lengthy journey ahead and the Republican procedural obstacles, President Joe Biden stated that he has set to work to end this “uncivil war.” The inauguration carried a tone of hope, as reflected by Amanda Gorman who said, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
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