Washington — President Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address to the nation as the 46th president of the United States, acknowledging the vast challenges confronting the country and urging the American people to cast aside political divisions and "end this uncivil war" that has gripped the nation for the last four years.
In a speech that lasted about 21 minutes, Mr. Biden proclaimed, "Democracy has prevailed," after Americans "learned again that democracy is precious" and "fragile."
"We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal," Mr. Biden said. "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."
The president called on Americans to come together in unity and, in a message directed toward those who did not support him, vowed to "be a president for all Americans."
"Here me clearly," Mr. Biden said. "Disagreement must not lead to disunion."
Mr. Biden assumes the presidency with a host of challenges, noting the nation still finds itself in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, and is plagued with bitter political division.
"Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways," he said. "But the fact is, we face them all at once."
In his first act as president, Mr. Biden asked the nation to join him in a moment of silent prayer to honor the victims of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people.
Wednesday's ceremonies served as a reminder of the crises Mr. Biden is inheriting, with the U.S. Capitol surrounded by tall fencing and thousands of National Guard members dispatched to assist with securing the event, and the National Mall, typically filled with throngs of Americans witnessing the peaceful transfer of power, adorned with thousands of American flags to represent those who could not attend in person because of the pandemic.
Still, the president declared "this is America's day. This is democracy's day."
Mr. Biden's inauguration came two weeks after a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to stop Congress from counting electoral votes and reaffirming Mr. Biden's victory. The violent events resulted in the death of one U.S. Capitol police officer and four protesters and prompted unprecedented security in Washington amid concerns of further acts of violence by extremist groups. The House, in a historic bipartisan vote, impeached Mr. Trump for a second time.
Yet the inauguration proceeded, and Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Mr. Biden just before 12 p.m.
"Through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed," Mr. Biden said. "In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward, and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect, we can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury."
The president acknowledged the battles the nation must fight in pursuit of racial justice, against domestic terrorism and white supremacy, and in addressing climate change.
"The dream of justice for all," Mr. Biden said, "will be deferred no longer."
While the president did not mention Mr. Trump by name, he appealed to Americans to "reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured" and to distinguish between lies and truth.
"There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit," Mr. Biden said, reflecting on the assault on the Capitol on January 6 and the lies, spread by Mr. Trump, that spurned the violent events. "And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies"
Mr. Biden is taking office as the first president in modern history without a single Cabinet member confirmed. Still, his first day in office will include signings of a bevy of executive actions, some of which will reverse the actions of his predecessor. The president has also unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and has implored Congress to swiftly act.
Now, as the Biden administration takes power, he pledged to "repair our alliances and engage with the world once again."
"It's time for boldness, for there is so much to do," he said. "And this is certain, I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion, is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children?"