“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge," Biden said, standing on the steps of the US Capitol, where just weeks earlier, supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump engaged in pitched battle with police in an attempt to block Biden's election from being certified.
"Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail," he said. "The answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions. 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."
The newly minted 46th president also spoke to US allies and adversaries around the globe, pledging to undo Trump's foreign policy moves, which he characterized as a step back from America's global leadership role.
“America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again ... We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example," Biden said, loosely quoting former US President Bill Clinton's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, where Biden was nominated as the vice presidential candidate alongside soon-to-be US President Barack Obama.
He then called for a moment of silence to remember the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 in the last year. “We will honor them by becoming the people and the nation we can and we should be," he pledged.
“It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do, and this is certain: I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.”
The inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC, on Wednesday has taken place under unprecedented security. More than 25,000 troops have garrisoned the capital city, constructing an elaborate system of barricades and checkpoints designed to deflect or deter any of the slew of insurrectionist plots reported to have been planned against the event. Few press and fewer guests attended the event, with state flags representing the dignitaries who would have come to the inauguration.
For months after the November 3, 2020, election, Trump refused to concede his loss to Biden, claiming the results were fraudulent and that the election had been stolen from him. He and former first lady Melania Trump refused to attend the January 20 inauguration, instead departing for Florida early Wednesday morning. However, former Vice President Mike Pence, who was targeted by the pro-Trump insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a bid to void the election results, did attend.