Joe Biden—brand new president of the United States—addressed the nation with a glow of optimism and a plea for unity in his inaugural speech. Calling on his faith, his patriotism, and his trademark folksy-meets-Peloton-instructor demeanor, he addressed the nation. “I pledge this for you: I will be a president for all Americans,” he said.
Moments after being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America, Biden gave an inaugural address that hit a warmly optimistic note, while acknowledging his sorrow over the 400,000 Americans lost to COVID and warning about America’s dangerous discord after the Trump administration.
Biden is taking on leadership at one of the most divided moments of American history, and he knows it. In his inaugural address, he made a bid to every American—those who campaigned for him, and those who hate him—to “start afresh, all of us.”
There was just one moment when Joe Biden—both an elder statesman, and somewhat of a goofball—did not hit a note of unity. The new president declined to acknowledge the old one, choosing not to say his name in his inaugural address, even in the place where the speech would normally have called for it. But it’s hardly a major slight when you consider that the 45th president didn’t bother to show up for the event. Donald Trump, in an unusual move, sat out the inauguration.
Speaking after the emotional swearing-in and musical performances by Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, the new president spoke to his toughest critics on both sides. “We must end this un-civil war that pits red against blue,” he said, adding, with a nod to bible stories, that we should “open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
“I know speaking of unity can sound like a foolish fantasy these days,” he said, staring into the camera. But, he insisted, “Unity is the path forward.” Quoting civil war president Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address, which asked Americans to call on our “better angels,” Biden added, that “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.” And with his signature folksiness, he added a request for us to “stop the shouting and lower the temperature.”
The most energetic point of the speech came when the new president crowed over the success of another person: new Vice President Kamala Harris. “Don’t tell me things can’t change,” he shouted, grinning.
The Biden-Harris administration has its work cut out for it. Today has shown that they’re bringing a hefty dose of optimism, faith, good old-fashioned work ethic, and absolutely spectacular winter coats.
Jenny Singer is a staff-writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.