VOA Special English
Biden Takes Office, Calls for 'Unity'


    “I, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States…” With those words, Joe Biden was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States.

    Speaking to Americans for the first time as president, Biden said, “Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy… At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

    Biden came to office at a time of severe crisis in America. Just two weeks earlier, supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Biden from taking office. And millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the pandemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives.

    At the age of 78, Biden is the oldest person to hold the office of U.S. president. He said, “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”

    To overcome these challenges, Biden said it “requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.” Biden added that he will be a “president for all Americans” and will “fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

    President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive at the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the start of the official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021
    President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive at the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the start of the official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021

    Historic ceremony

    Surrounded by his wife, Jill, and family members, Biden placed his left hand on the Bible that has been in his family for 127 years. He then took the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just before noon Wednesday.

    Earlier in the ceremony, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is the first Black person, the first Asian American and also the first woman to hold the office.

    Three former presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also attended. Former president Jimmy Carter could not attend because of health concerns. Donald Trump, the 45th president, had already left Washington earlier in the morning but his Vice President, Mike Pence, attended the ceremony.

    The event took place in front of a Capitol building surrounded with high fences and concrete barriers. About 25,000 National Guard troops and other security forces were brought in to protect the city.

    On the National Mall, 200,000 flags were blowing in the wind to represent the usual crowd members who could not attend. Biden and Harris had asked Americans to watch the inauguration at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The day included performances from singers Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. A 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, noted that, “while democracy can be permanently delayed, it can never be permanently denied.” She added, “For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”

    The new president and vice president

    After a short gathering with Congressional leaders, President Biden and Vice President Harris took part in a “Pass in Review” ceremony, a military tradition to show the transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief.

    Biden and Harris laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Joining them were the three former presidents in a sign of unity. However, many traditional inaugural activities were not held because of the virus.

    There was no parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. In its place was a virtual “parade Across America.” But the marching bands from the University of Delaware and Howard University were there to escort the country’s new leaders to The White House. Biden went to Delaware and Harris was at Howard.

    As the virtual parade continued around the country, Vice President Harris returned to the Capitol to act in her constitutional role as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate.

    Harris swore in three new Democratic senators giving the Democrats effective control of both The White House and Congress for the first time in 10 years.

    At The White House, Biden immediately signed several new executive orders to change policies enacted under the Trump administration. Among them were orders to require face covering on all federal property and to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

    Just days earlier, Biden had also proposed a $1.9 trillion plan to fight the pandemic and to help the U.S. economy.

    I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

    Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English with additional materials from AP. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    triumph –n. a great or important victory

    prevail –v. to defeat an opponent

    challenged –adj. to have faced difficulties or problems

    elusive –adj. hard to find or capture

    concrete –n. a hard building material made from rock

    wreath –n. a circular arrangement of leaves and flowers used as a sign of honor or victory

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