Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, assuming the helm of a country reeling from deep political divides, a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
With his hand on a five-inch thick heirloom Bible that has been in his family for more than a century, Biden took the presidential oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts just after noon (1700 GMT), vowing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge,” Biden said as he began his inaugural address. “Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy…At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Biden, 78, became the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus and security concerns following the January 6 assault on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, attended Biden’s inauguration, along with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
Harris used two Bibles, including one owned by Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice.