Live Updates: Photos and Videos from Biden's Inauguration – The New York Times

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with former Presidents Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden and Vice President Harris visited Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, continuing an inaugural tradition.

The new administration was accompanied at the cemetery by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The ceremony began with a band playing “The Star Spangled Banner” while Mr. Biden saluted, and Ms. Harris held her hand over heart.

The two then stepped forward to the wreath to say a silent prayer.

President Biden’s motorcade making its way along the parade route toward the White House.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s inauguration parade to the White House has begun, but this year’s procession is a smaller affair than in years past when throngs of spectators would line Pennsylvania Avenue cheering on the incoming president.

Instead, the festivities will be largely virtual, with performers from every U.S. state, territory and Washington, D.C. taking part.

At around 3:15 p.m., Mr. Biden’s motorcade crossed the Potomac River and entered Washington, making its way to the White House, which he will enter as president for the first time on Wednesday. The U.S. Army Band led the way, playing to nearly empty streets.

The virtual component, named the “Parade Across America,” is being hosted by the actor Tony Goldwyn, who played a president on “Scandal.” Also appearing: Jon Stewart, the former “Daily Show” host; the band New Radicals; and Nathan Apodaca, the Idaho man who went viral on TikTok this summer for skateboarding while drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac.

There will also be a small group marching in Washington that includes drumlines from Mr. Biden’s alma mater, the University of Delaware, and that of Vice President Kamala Harris, Howard University.

A janitor hung a banner on the Thousand Oaks Elementary school that featured a drawing of Vice President Kamala Harris in Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Chicago, a heavily Democratic city known for its oversized presidential celebrations, was sunny, cold and mostly deserted on Wednesday, as many Chicagoans paused from their work at home to watch the inaugural festivities.

Lateres Scott, a 30-year-old rapper, rushed down a mostly empty street in the Loop, clutching a bag of takeout pancakes for a late breakfast. She could hardly wait to get home and turn on the T.V. to see the beginning of the inauguration ceremony, she said — especially the sight of Joseph R. Biden Jr. taking the oath of office.

“I feel chill for the first time in a while,” she said. “I just hope Biden can fix the situation. People just want to have normal lives again.”

A few miles north, Vanille, a patisserie in Lincoln Park, was doing a brisk business of inauguration-themed desserts, including a cookie stamped with the images of the First Dogs, Champ and Major ($15.95) and a Wonder Woman cake featuring Kamala Harris’s face ($39). By noon, most of the desserts were sold out, and bakers were rushing to restock.

Sarah Rassey, a 40-year-old stay-at-home parent who lives near the bakery, said she had dual celebrations on Wednesday: Her daughter, Madeleine, was turning five, and they planned to watch the inauguration together.

“I feel lighter,” she said of Mr. Biden’s official swearing-in. “I’m just grateful, relieved, happy, and honestly I’ve been crying tears of joy since last night.”

In Boulder, Colo., Isra Chaker, 30, the daughter of Syrian immigrants who settled in the United States in the 1980s, said having Mr. Biden as president made her feel that “I belong here.”

“As someone who is visibly Muslim, I have had to prove and justify my Americaness to society even though I was born and raised here and this is the only home I know — because of Trump’s attacks on my identity,” said Ms. Chaker, a practicing Muslim who is an advocate for refugees and asylum seekers at Oxfam America, a charity.

President Trump’s travel restrictions on people from mostly Muslim countries prevented her relatives in Syria from visiting the United States for family celebrations, something they once did regularly.

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“Today, our hope to reunite with our family has become a reality,” she said, as President Biden was expected to issue an executive order to lift the restrictions. “We feel profound joy.”

In Berkeley, Calif. neighbors stopped to watch a janitor hang a banner on the Thousand Oaks Elementary school that featured a drawing of Vice President Kamala Harris and the words, spelled in bold blue, “Congratulations Thousand Oaks Alumna, Madam Vice President!”

“It’s a great thing,” said Rashad Andrews, a school safety officer at Thousand Oaks. “She walked in these hallways, the hallways that we look after. Definitely there’s a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

Martin Turon, a software engineer, walking his labradoodle, Mishka, also said he was “very proud” of Ms. Harris. But seeing Mr. Trump leave office gave him a sense of relief, not jubilation.

“Do you really celebrate right after a big earthquake, when everything is broken, when you’re picking up the boards and the rubble off the streets?” Mr. Turon asked.

In Austin, Texas, two special education teachers from the Killeen school district made the hour-plus trip to be in front of the State Capitol in time to watch on a cell phone as Mr. Biden took the oath of office.

“Yay, we’ve got a new president,” shouted Norma Luna, 49, as her sister Sylvia Luna, 43, peered over her shoulder to watch. The sisters were the only spectators in front of the capitol grounds, vastly outnumbered by reporters and photographers who had come to cover an anti-Biden protest that had largely fizzled.

The teachers said they wanted to pay special tribute to the incoming presidency after a turbulent four years under Trump and the ravaging pandemic, which claimed the life of their older sister, Veronica Vargas, 56, who died of Covid-19 on Election Day.

“I didn’t think we could get here,” said Norma, wore a black cap and a black mask emblazoned with Biden-Harris in red and white letters and cried as she watched the inauguration. “We’re proud to be Americans again.”

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. Joseph Biggs is in the front row in the plaid jacket.
Credit…Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Joseph Biggs, a leader of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys, was charged on Wednesday in connection with the riot at the Capitol, as prosecutors said he led dozens of the group’s members in an angry march toward — and into — the halls of Congress.

Mr. Biggs, 37, was arrested in Florida only hours before the inauguration of President Biden and stands accused of unlawful entry and corruptly obstructing an official proceeding. At least five other members of the group, which sent hundreds of foot soldiers to Washington two weeks ago for a march in support of former President Donald J. Trump, are also facing charges stemming from the Capitol attack.

The Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” and have history in recent years of bloody street fights with left-wing anti-fascist activists. During Mr. Trump’s time in office, they were some of his most vocal — and most violent — supporters. At one of the presidential debates, Mr. Trump returned the favor, telling members of the group to “stand back and stand by.”

Mr. Biggs’s involvement with the Capitol riot began last month, prosecutors say, when he started to encourage Proud Boys to attend the Jan. 6 event in Washington, which was billed as a march to “Stop the Steal.” According to court papers, he echoed messages from the Proud Boy’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, telling members to eschew their typical black-and-yellow polo shirts and instead go “incognito” and move about the city in “smaller teams.”

Though Mr. Tarrio went to Washington himself this month, he was thrown out of the city by a judge on Jan. 5 after being arrested the day before in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner torn from a historic Black church during a separate round of violent protests last month. When officers took Mr. Tarrio into custody, they found he was carrying two high-capacity rifle magazines emblazoned with the Proud Boys chicken logo.

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On the day of the riot, Mr. Biggs — wearing glasses, a dark knit hat and a blue and gray plaid shirt — was captured in a video standing in a large group of Proud Boys as someone shouts, with an expletive, “Let’s take the Capitol!” Other portions of the video show him marching with the group toward the building, chanting slogans like, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Near him in the crowd, court papers say, was another top Proud Boy organizer, Ethan Nordean, who is also known as Rufio Panman.

Though prosecutors acknowledge that Mr. Biggs was not among the first to break into the Capitol, they say he later admitted to entering the building for a brief time. They also say he appears to have been wearing a walkie-talkie-style device on his chest, suggesting he was communicating with others during the incursion.

Mr. Biggs, who has often spoken publicly about his service in the U.S. Army, is a former correspondent for Alex Jones’ conspiracy-minded media outlet, Infowars. While working for Infowars, Mr. Biggs covered several events with a high profile among extremists. He reported on the role the militia group, the Oath Keepers, played in guarding local business during violent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 and was on hand during the invasion and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016.

In an interview with The New York Times hours after the Capitol attack, Mr. Biggs said that he and about 100 other Proud Boys arrived at the complex around 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 when suddenly the crowd in front of them surged and the mood grew violent. “It literally happened in seconds,” Mr. Biggs said, referring to the invasion of the building.

Prosecutors have also charged Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy from Rochester and a former Marine, in connection with the riot, noting in Mr. Biggs’s criminal complaint that he appeared to be wearing an earpiece communication device. Charges have also been filed against Nicholas Ochs, founder of the Proud Boys’ Hawaii chapter, and Nicholas DeCarlo, who runs a news outfit called “Murder the Media,” which is associated with the Proud Boys.

The federal investigation into the Capitol riot has now led to more than 100 arrests on charges that have included weapons offenses and assaults on police officers.

On Wednesday, prosecutors also charged a Connecticut man with trapping a police officer behind a riot shield as a crowd pressed against him. Patrick E. McCaughey, 23, of Ridgefield, Conn., was accused of pinning Daniel Hodges, an officer with the Washington Metropolitan Police, against a door of the Capitol. According to a widely-seen video of the incident, Officer Hodges cried for help until eventually being pulled to safety.

President Biden embraced his wife, Jill Biden, and son Hunter Biden after being sworn in during the inauguration ceremony.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

As part of a tradition of hospitality between Congress and an incoming president, leadership from both the House and the Senate gathered in the Capitol rotunda to bestow four gifts on President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The first gift was a painting, on loan from the Smithsonian, by a Black artist in 1859. It shows a rainbow — “a good sign,” Senator Roy Blunt said as he presented the picture. He added that Jill Biden helped pick it.

Behind “door No. 2” as Senator Amy Klobuchar joked, were two crystal vases, carved by Lenox, one for Mr. Biden emblazoned with the White House and one for Ms. Harris with an etching of the Capitol. Ms. Klobuchar noted that the Lenox factory was “132 miles from Scranton, since we know today all roads lead to Scranton,” Mr. Biden’s hometown.

Next, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi presented the incoming administration with the two American flags that flew atop the inauguration ceremony.

Mr. McConnell started off his remarks with some Congressional humor, invoking a “point of personal privilege” (a senate phrase Mr. Biden was fond of on the campaign trail) to note that “not only did we just swear in a son and daughter of the Senate to these high offices, both of these former senators skipped the House altogether.”

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The last gift, portraits taken Wednesday of both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris taking the oath of office, was presented by Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House who voted to overturn the election results, and Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic House majority leader.

As Mr. Hoyer addressed Mr. Biden as “Mr. President,” Mr. Biden appeared to say something to the Democratic congressman. But Mr. Hoyer quickly replied: “No, Joe. You’re Mr. President.”

A street vendor selling shirts during the inauguration.
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

For those few people who tried to attend the inauguration, difficulty gave way to disappointment.

At the only public access point for the inauguration, members of the public were left to watch the ceremonies on their phones. An hour after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in, few of those waiting in line had been screened and allowed to pass through. Perhaps two-thirds of those who were in line at noon had given up and moved on.

Shortly before noon, Jay Edgbert, 51, a Trump supporter who owns a vending machine business in Washington State, was standing in line at the access point and watching the ceremony on the phone of the man behind him, a truck driver from Kansas. He was missing the ceremony, but he said he didn’t mind. The sun felt good, and he was making friends in line. He had come to Washington on Jan. 6 and was still in the area so decided to come to the inauguration.

Mr. Edgbert, who used to work as a longshoreman in Tacoma, said he came to support Mr. Trump only recently. He voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he grew angry over the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, and angrier still at the lockdowns and mask mandates in response to the pandemic.

At 1:15 p.m., the line was still long. He had made it halfway.

At 2:00 p.m., a small line still remained, and Ralph Gaines, 29, an activist from Detroit, was trying to lift spirits through a megaphone.

“Hug your family member, hug your mom, hug your dad,” he said to the line of tired and cold-looking people. “Lift each other up! Bring joy! Come together!”

He said he had come to Washington because he wanted to see the inauguration in person. But the intersection of 13th Street and F Street was as close as he was going to get. In the distance, a marching band played while walking along Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I can’t wait to see the video of that,” said Samantha Pfeiffer, 29, a friend of Mr. Gaines who is also an activist from Detroit.

She said she did not vote in 2016 but had become passionate about politics during Mr Trump’s four years.

“This is a glorious day,” she said, eating a handful of french fries. “Evil has been evicted from the White House.”

She had taped a collection of tapestries and posters along the cement police barriers. One of them read, “Voted Him Out.”

“We’re here to tell them it was real,” she said of Trump supporters about Mr. Biden’s win. “And they need to step into reality.”

Not far from the National Mall, at the Black Lives Matter plaza near the White House, a small group of demonstrators went silent around 11:50, as Mr. Biden rose to take the oath of office. Groups of reporters and onlookers huddled around screens, straining to hear Mr. Biden’s speech.

The streets were eerily empty, and the sound of Mr. Biden’s voice echoed softly from speakers around the plaza. Pockets of cheers erupted periodically, but the only other sound was the buzzing of generators powering security structures placed around the block.

National Guard troops patrolled the National Mall during the inauguration.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The ceremony at the center of Inauguration Day, the swearing in of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, has been completed. But a number of other related events and celebrations remain scheduled as the country welcomes its 46th commander in chief.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, along with their spouses, Jill Biden and Douglas Emhoff, will conduct a review of the military on Wednesday afternoon. They will then visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a monument dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. They will be joined by three former presidents and their wives, who were all present at the swearing-in: Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Then, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will head to the White House. Instead of the usual parade along Pennsylvania Avenue, a virtual online procession hosted by the actor Tony Goldwyn at 3:15 p.m. will showcase performers and speakers from across the country.

Among those slated to take part are the comedian Jon Stewart; the band New Radicals, uniting for the first time in more than 20 years; the singer Andra Day; and Earth Wind & Fire.

After Mr. Biden enters the Oval Office, he is expected to sign a number of executive orders aimed at undoing former President Donald J. Trump’s legacy.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no official inaugural balls this year. Instead, at 8:30 p.m., Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute television special that will include speeches from Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, and musical performances from Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bruce Springsteen.

A supporter of former President Donald J. Trump outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday.
Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Before Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the oath of office in Washington, a lone pro-Trump protester stood in front of the statehouse in Concord, N.H., holding a Trump-Pence campaign sign with “Pence” scratched out in black marker.

The man, who declined to give his name because he feared retribution and “a subversive Communist police state,” said he had crossed off the former vice president’s name because he had presided over the joint session of Congress that certified Mr. Biden’s election.

He added that he had taken the day off to be there and was surprised that not a single other demonstrator had shown up. He left the plaza before Mr. Biden was sworn-in at noon.

“I’m going skiing,” the man said.

Shortly after he left, Paul and Donna Merrill stationed themselves on the sidewalk in front of the plaza with an American flag and three homemade signs, including ones reading “We love you President Trump” and “Jesus is refuge.”

“We’re losing our freedoms as we speak,” Mr. Merrill said.

A Jeep with a large “thin blue line” flag in support of the police drove past their small demonstration on Main Street, honking in apparent support.

“People are losing hope,” Ms. Merrill said. “It’s a sad day for our country.”

In Lansing, Mich., four people stood vigil outside the State Capitol as Mr. Biden gave his inaugural address.

“There are a lot of questions left unanswered, and I wish there was more transparency, “ said Don Atkinson, 50, who owns a carpentry business in Clinton Township.

Mr. Atkinson, who said he is an Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq war, was dressed in military fatigues, carried a semi-automatic rifle and wore the Roman numeral III patch of the “Three Percenters,” an anti-government, pro-gun group.

“I hope both sides could agree on a winner and a loser and so we won’t be so divided,” he said. “Hopefully we can get through this.”

Lansing had been locked down — with a large police presence and the state office building and numerous businesses boarded up — in preparation for what was expected to be a larger protest.

In Tallahassee, Fla., a handful of peaceful protesters arrived at the State Capitol before Mr. Biden took the oath of office. One held up a sign saying, “Stop Election Fraud.” Another wore a MAGA hat and a Trump mask, and carried a sign saying “Thank you President Trump! The World Needed You!” Another sign read, “Trump Won!”

The Capitol has been under heavy protection in recent days in anticipation of possible armed protests against Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Atlanta, capital of Georgia, also saw only a handful of protesters gather outside the statehouse.

“We’re here to stand up for our rights,” said Rhonda Beach, a 50-year-old housewife. “The election was stolen. It’s not fair.”

Ms. Beach drove from Monticello, Ga., about an hour southeast of Atlanta, with her husband Anthony Beach, to rally with their niece, Elizabeth Webb. They carried signs that said “We love our country” on one side and “We hate our government” on the other.

Although Ms. Webb, a 42-year-old from Calhoun, Ga., said, “I love Trump, and I’m behind him,” she acknowledged that he had contributed to ideological division in the country.

She added that she believed that Mr. Biden and the Democrats were to blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “We don’t tear stuff up,” she said of Republicans. “That’s not how we act.”

One of the few other demonstrators, a 46-year-old construction worker who identified himself only as Patrick, showed up armed with a bow-and-arrow and a sword.

“It’s just a show of force, like they’re doing,” he said, pointing to the police and National Guard troops ringing the statehouse. “I ain’t come here to start no trouble.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff left, and former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence leaving the Capitol after the inauguration.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris escorted her predecessor, Mike Pence, to a motorcade that effectively ushered him back to civilian life after she was sworn into office on Wednesday.

The exchange offered a symbolic representation of the peaceful transfer of power in the absence of former President Donald J. Trump, who left Washington before President Biden was inaugurated.

Mr. Pence called Ms. Harris last week to congratulate her and offer belated assistance to her transition. It was the first time the two had spoken since the vice-presidential debate during the campaign last fall.

Mr. Pence was the most senior member of Mr. Trump’s administration to attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration, a decision that split with the former president. Mr. Biden had said that he was happy not to have Mr. Trump in attendance, but that Mr. Pence was “welcome” and that it would help with the transition.

The former vice president was expected to return to Indiana, his home state.


Twitter has given the incoming Biden White House the keys to the official administration accounts. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will now control @POTUS, with Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris taking over the accounts held by their predecessors. Doug Emhoff will control the first @SecondGentleman account.

That doesn’t mean President Biden inherits former President Trump’s followers. Instead, users who followed his transition account, @PresElectBiden, will automatically follow the new POTUS account.

Control of the Trump White House accounts now passes to the National Archives and Records Administration, and the accounts will remain up as archived public records.

Mr. Trump’s personal Twitter account was permanently suspended days after the violent riot at the Capitol on January 6th.

Vice President Kamala Harris served up a bipartisan message in a bright single-breasted coat and dress from Christopher John Rodgers.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Forget red and blue (states). The theme of the Biden inauguration was “America United,” and the color of the day seemed to be purple — the shade that bridges the divide by bringing both colors together (not to mention one of the original signature colors of the suffragists, whose dreams are now being realized with the first woman vice president).

“Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause,” the National Woman’s Party wrote in a newsletter in 1913.

Though Dr. Jill Biden coordinated her blue Markarian coat with her husband’s blue Ralph Lauren tie, Vice President Kamala Harris served up a bipartisan message in a bright single-breasted coat and dress from Christopher John Rodgers, as did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a grape Ralph Lauren pantsuit. And Michelle Obama, the former first lady, wore wine trousers with a coordinated turtleneck and long coat from Sergio Hudson, a young Black designer.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Masks were also part of the material culture of this inauguration. Dr. Biden wore a sky blue mask that appeared custom-made to match her coat, and other members of her family chose a similar monochromatic theme. Ms. Harris opted for a shiny black number that complimented her purple outfit, one of her signature mask looks.

Many men opted for paper medical masks, but a few went for solid shades or face coverings that featured insignia. Former President George W. Bush sported a mask made by Rhoback, a company that was started by former Capitol Hill staffers.

Officers in Washington during the inauguration on Wednesday. 
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Quite a difference two weeks in January makes: Under a crystalline, Inauguration Day sky and a bunting-draped Capitol, the Marine Band welcomed the 46th president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., into office Wednesday with a procession of fanfares — in the exact spot where supporters of the 45th, Donald J. Trump, had staged a deadly riot in a wanton effort to deny this transfer from occurring.

The symbolism was stark and inescapable. It made for an inaugural scene in Washington like no other, a fractured fortress still much in the throes of a pandemic. Supreme Court Justices greeted former presidents with elbow-bumps and waved to senators from several feet away — a kind of pandemic-mandated separation of powers.

Reminders of the assault of Jan. 6 were everywhere. Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer credited with steering rioters away from the Senate floor was introduced to a somber, standing ovation from the socially distanced crowd after he accompanied Vice President-elect Kamala Harris onto the inaugural stage.




The Poet Amanda Gorman Says America Can Be the ‘Light’ It Needs

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration.

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world. When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade the loss? The loss we carry asea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is hours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time, where a skinny black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one. And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine. But that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none, and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired. we tried, that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division. Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade. But in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise promise to glade, the hill we climb. If only we dare it. Because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into, and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, our history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour. But within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves. So while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us? 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. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain. If we merge mercy with might, and might with rights, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright. So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left with. Every breath, my bronze-pounded chest. We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West. We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country. Our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there was always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.

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Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

When Amanda Gorman was writing her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” she faced a challenge unlike any of her predecessors.

Gorman set out to craft a poem that was both hopeful and realistic, one that reflected the political divisions that have fractured the country, but also the promise of greater unity. She finished writing the poem just after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

At 22, Gorman, who lives in Los Angeles, is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. She was brought to the Inaugural Committee’s attention by first lady Jill Biden, who saw her recite a poem at the Library of Congress, and was struck by her performance and her bold yellow dress (Gorman wore a bright yellow blazer at the inauguration).

To prepare for her appearance, Gorman, who has a speech impediment, read the poem aloud over and over, “practicing it and trying to let it be known in my mouth, but not feel robotic,” she said in an interview. Early reviews of her performance were glowing: on CNN, she was praised for summing “up with emotion and beautiful eloquence the idea of what this country came close to losing.”

As she recited “The Hill We Climb,” in the bright sunlight, her voice animated and full of emotion, Gorman described her background as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,” who can dream of being president one day, “only to find herself reciting for one.”

When day comes, we ask ourselves:

Where can we find light

In this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.

With verses that echoed the theme of the inauguration, “America United,” she spoke of the possibility of unity, redemption and reconciliation.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow, we do it.

Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed

A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.




‘Democracy Has Prevailed’: Biden Calls for National Unity

President Joseph. R Biden Jr. emphasized the importance of unity in his first speech as president of the United States.

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. [applause] So now on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. As we look ahead in our uniquely American way — restless, bold, optimistic — and set our sights on a nation we know we can be, and we must be. To restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity. With unity, we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward work and rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice, and we can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.

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President Joseph. R Biden Jr. emphasized the importance of unity in his first speech as president of the United States.CreditCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Pledging an era of unity that will heal the nations fissures and help overcome the daunting challenges facing the country, President Biden sought to promise a departure from years of division, caustic politics and harsh rhetoric in his inaugural address.

“We must end this uncivil war,” Mr. Biden said, “that pits red against blue. Rural vs. urban. Conservative vs. liberal.”

The president spoke firmly yet somberly, recognizing at the outset the grim toll of the pandemic on the country, before an address that largely centered on his call to bring the country together. Below are a few highlights of his remarks.

  • “In my first act as president, I’d like you to join me in a moment of silent prayer, to remember all those we lost in the pandemic,” Mr. Biden said of the more than 400,000 Americans who have died. He mentioned that “we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities.”

  • He stated that “a cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us,” and promised that “the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.” He noted the threats posed by white supremacy and domestic terrorism, saying that the country “must confront” those threats, and “we will defeat” it.

  • “My whole soul is in this,” Mr. Biden said. “Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause.” He added, “With unity, we can do great things, important things.”

  • Mr. Biden also alluded to the threat of disinformation, stating that “we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured.”

Garth Brooks performing at the inauguration.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Following an inaugural speech by President Biden calling for unity, Garth Brooks sang an a cappella version of ‘Amazing Grace,’ aided at the start only by a trumpet blare, before asking the audience, both in attendance in Washington and watching on television, to join him for the final verse.

The country singer was a last-minute addition to the inaugural line up, responding to a request from incoming first lady Jill Biden.

Mr. Brooks, who also sang at former President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, said in accepting the invitation that, “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity.”

Before the inauguration, Mr. Brooks joked that he “might be the only Republican” at the ceremony (which of course wasn’t true, because multiple Republican elected officials attended), but the country singer did not publicly endorse a candidate during the 2020 election.

Mr. Brooks said before the inauguration that he was drawn to Biden’s hopes for unity following an intensely divisive period in American history.

“The message they’re pushing is unity, and that’s right down my alley, man,” Mr. Brooks said. “If we’re gonna get anywhere we’re gonna get there together.”



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