By Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha
In a very happy moment for democrats in the United States of America, Joe Biden Jr., was sworn in as the new president, bringing an end to the tumultuous reign of Donald Trump. Against this background, Biden’s inaugural speech was dotted with calls for unity, a consistent message from his campaign to the momentous occasion for him and his family. He is assuming power at a time when America is still feeling the pangs of the deadly Coronavirus that has claimed over 400,000 lives as well as political tension and hardline divisions promoted by extreme right activists.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” he said.
At a star-studded low key event that had past presidents like the Obamas, Clintons and the Bush family in attendance —Trump chose to discard norms and skip the ceremony, his vice-president Mike Pence however graced the event — Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States while Kamala Harris became the first African-American and female vice-president.
Despite the economic and health challenges ahead of him, Biden’s speech celebrated the victory of democracy in the country. His first few words as he took the podium was: This is America’s day. This is Democracy’s Day.
“A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. And America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Those words echoed the healing process of a nation that has been torn both racially and politically by her last president. Trump’s actions in America and on the world stage ridiculed the most powerful nation in the world. But Biden, aware of the outlook of America in the eyes of the world pledged that the country will bounce back to her lofty position.
“America has been tested, and we’ve come out stronger for it,” he said. “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.”
He reminded Americans of who they are.
“This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far, but we still have far to go,” pledging to put his whole soul in his new task and perhaps, make America great again (not in Trump’s way).
“My whole soul is in it,” he said, “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”
As much as he is optimistic about his message of unity, Biden is not blind to Trump’s loyalists who may want to continue in the unruly path of his predecessor. He stated that he would equally fight for those who did not vote for him and those who did. More so, he is aware of the wounds that the last four years as well as the pandemic have inflicted on many,
“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know that the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured. Through civil war, the great depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifices, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. 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. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and 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. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today, at this time, in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again.
Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”
He alluded to the disinformation culture that has penetrated the American fabric, courtesy of Trump.
“And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured.”
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus — rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts,” he said, still making indirect reference to the culture Trump perpetuated.
Still imploring Americans to stand up for democracy, Biden gave a hint of the new kind of American story he wants.
“May this be the story that guides us, the story that inspires us, and the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch, but thrived, that America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forebears, one another, and generations to follow.”