“Let’s start afresh” 

Biden’s healing Inaugural Address

WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT / WELCOME MADAM VICE PRESIDENT Willco Banners at 1275 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC on 14 January 2021 by by Elvert Barnes Photography CC BY-SA 2.0
WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT / WELCOME MADAM VICE PRESIDENT Willco Banners at 1275 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC on 14 January 2021 by by Elvert Barnes Photography CC BY-SA 2.0

President Joe Biden hit just the right notes in his splendid Inaugural Address.

You could almost hear the sigh of a relief coming from the vast majority of Americans when he said, “Let’s start afresh.”

He acknowledged what needed to be acknowledged, and he affirmed what needed to be affirmed. And in his down-to-earth manner, he set a new and positive tone for moving this country forward.

He acknowledged the “riotous mob” that tried to “use violence to silence the will of the people” on Jan. 6.

He acknowledged that “democracy is fragile.”

He acknowledged that “we face an attack on our democracy and on truth,” and he decried a “culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, even manufactured,” and in which lies are “told for power and for profit.”

And so he affirmed “democracy,” a word that he used 11 times, including five times in the first minute. 

And so he affirmed “truth,” a word he used five times. 

Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore speaking at a podium in Feb 2020
Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

He also acknowledged the virulent racism that is afoot in the land, citing “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”

He nodded to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that “a cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us.”

And he affirmed that “the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”

He acknowledged the “once in a century virus that silently stalks the country,” and he movingly observed a moment of silence for the 400,000 Americans who have died from this plague.

And then he affirmed we “will overcome this deadly virus.”

He acknowledged the “climate crisis,” and affirmed that he would address it.

And he acknowledged the division in the country, and affirmed “unity” and “an end to this uncivil war.”

As he put it, “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.”

He offered wise advice on this front: “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.”

And he continued, in one of his most poignant passages:  “If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we are willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say — just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life: there’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another.”

This was a warm and healing speech, so necessary after what the country has been through over the last four years.

But it wasn’t a vacuous speech. By saluting democracy, truth and racial justice, and by calling out white supremacy, he offered a much-needed course correction in substance as well as in style.

On his longed-for Inauguration Day, Joe Biden rose to the occasion.