Perhaps Biden is what the US needs right now
President Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States today, hoping to mark an end to four years of turbulence and announcing a new era, on the very grounds where two weeks ago, an insurrection egged on by his predecessor tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
Recognising the fragility of US democracy and the profound division of the country, he called for unity: repeatedly, loudly and clearly, comparing his commitment to unity to that of Abraham Lincoln: “my whole soul is in it”.
Biden did not minimise the challenges: the pandemic, clearly the greatest challenge, but also the call for racial justice, growing inequity, joblessness, a climate in crisis, and “the rise of political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism”. He also directly addressed the need to overcome the “attack…on truth”, clearly contrasting his approach to that of the previous administration.
Recognising with humility that “any one of these [tests] would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But…we face them all at once”, his answer is very clear: “It’s a time for boldness”. This is the clarion call for an active, forward-looking new administration proposing to move quickly and positively on all fronts to address the “cascading crises of our era”.
To those outside the US, Biden admitted the attack on “America’s role in the world”, reassuring us that he “will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again…we will be a strong and trusted partner for peace…”.
Unity, the ability to “reach across the aisle” to the other Party and humility in recognising the problems to be faced, these have been consistent themes in Biden’s long political career. But now we have an important new dimension: a willingness to boldly and aggressively address the challenges the US is facing.
Biden will need all of this, and more, to succeed, but this very complete inauguration speech announces the path he intends to take. He must accomplish a near-perfect performance in his first 100 days to begin to meet the challenges facing the US, but this well-balanced and powerful speech, and the intention it shows, is a very good start. Could it be that this 78 year-old President is exactly what America needs in this critical moment of strife?
Patrick Siegler-Lathrop, author of RENDEZ-VOUS WITH AMERICA, An Explanation of the US Election System and President of the American Club of Lisbon.