‘The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.’
After four years of turmoil, Joe Biden offered hope and calm to the American people in his first speech as President.
Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America on Thursday morning Australian time, while Kamala Harris made history as the first woman and person of colour to hold the office of Vice President.
Calls to respect democracy
The inauguration ceremony was shaped by two themes.
Firstly, mindful that the terrace on which he stood had only last week been the site of bloodshed and terror at the hands of a white supremacist insurrection, President Biden emphasised unity and respect for American institutions.
‘Democracy has prevailed,’ said Biden in his inaugural speech.
‘Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.’
Diversity and social justice
President Biden’s second priority evident at the inauguration was a willingness to address social justice issues, informed by Biden’s Catholic faith, which were ignored and left to fester by President Trump.
In his speech, President Biden recommitted himself to action on climate change, racial justice, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, while the President’s words were a long-awaited dose of sanity, it was his actions which spoke louder about his willingness to bring on change.
At 21 minutes, Biden’s inaugural address was unusually short. He then gave others the spotlight, handing over the platform to a wide range of representatives of modern America, particularly young people and people of colour.
In the end it was Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old black poet from California, who envisioned a brighter future for America with a power and creativity that Biden’s oratory did not.
Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in history, delivered a spine-tingling performance of her poem The Hill We Climb.
‘We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free,’ recited Gorman, whose poem also quoted Scripture.
‘The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.’
Other highlights of the joyful and diverse inauguration ceremony were Lady Gaga’s rendition of the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez’s performance of ‘This Land Is Your Land’, and finally, a benediction and blessing from Biden’s long-time friend Rev Dr Silvester Beaman.