Joe Biden delivers his Inaugural Address
Joe Biden delivers his Inaugural Address

Today, just before high noon East­ern, Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the oath of office and became the forty-six Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of America.

After being sworn in, Biden deliv­ered his Inau­gur­al Address. If you weren’t able to watch or lis­ten to it when it was deliv­ered, we urge you to do so now. The tran­script of the speech is also enclosed below in case you’d pre­fer to read it.

In the tran­script, note that empha­sis (bold­face) is ours. Enjoy!

Inaugural Address of President Joe Biden

The Forty-Sixth Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of America

Chief Jus­tice Roberts, Vice Pres­i­dent Har­ris. Speak­er Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Vice Pres­i­dent Pence, my dis­tin­guished guests and my fel­low Amer­i­cans, this is Amer­i­ca’s day.

This is democ­ra­cy’s day.

A day of his­to­ry and hope of renew­al and resolve through a cru­cible for the ages. Amer­i­ca has been test­ed anew and Amer­i­ca has risen to the challenge.

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. At this hour, my friends, democ­ra­cy has prevailed.

From 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 the nation we can be and we must be.

I thank my pre­de­ces­sors of both par­ties for their pres­ence here today.

I thank them from the bot­tom of my heart.

And I know, I know the resilience of our Con­sti­tu­tion and the strength, the strength of our nation. As does Pres­i­dent Carter, who I spoke with last night, who can­not be with us today, but whom we salute for his life­time of service.

I’ve just tak­en the sacred oath each of those patri­ots have taken.

The oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the Amer­i­can sto­ry depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the peo­ple who seek a more per­fect union.

This is a great nation. We are good people.

And over the cen­turies, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go. We’ll press for­ward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this win­ter of per­il and sig­nif­i­cant pos­si­bil­i­ties, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.

Few peo­ple in our nation’s his­to­ry have been more chal­lenged or found a time more chal­leng­ing or dif­fi­cult than the time we’re in now. Once-in-a-cen­tu­ry virus that silent­ly stalks the coun­try. It’s tak­en as many lives in one year as Amer­i­ca lost in all of World War II. Mil­lions of jobs have been lost. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of busi­ness­es closed. A cry for racial jus­tice, some four hun­dred years in the mak­ing moves us. The dream of jus­tice for all will be deferred no longer.

The cry for sur­vival comes from plan­et itself, a cry that can’t be any more des­per­ate or any more clear. And now a rise of polit­i­cal extrem­ism, white suprema­cy, domes­tic ter­ror­ism that we must con­front and we will defeat.

To over­come these chal­lenges, 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, unity.

In anoth­er Jan­u­ary, on New Year’s Day in 1863, Abra­ham Lin­coln signed the Eman­ci­pa­tion Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the pres­i­dent said, and I quote, “if my name ever goes down into his­to­ry, it’ll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul was in it today.

On this Jan­u­ary day, my whole soul is in this: Bring­ing Amer­i­ca togeth­er, unit­ing our peo­ple, unit­ing our nation. And I ask every Amer­i­can to join me in this cause.

Unit­ing to fight the foes we face: anger, resent­ment, hatred, extrem­ism, law­less­ness, vio­lence, dis­ease, job­less­ness and hopelessness.

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, 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.

I know speak­ing of uni­ty can sound to some like a fool­ish fan­ta­sy these days.

I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new. Our his­to­ry has been a con­stant strug­gle between the Amer­i­can ide­al that we’re all cre­at­ed equal and the harsh, ugly real­i­ty that racism, nativism, fear, demo­niza­tion have long torn us apart.

The bat­tle is peren­ni­al and vic­to­ry is nev­er assured.

Through civ­il war, the Great Depres­sion, world war, 911, through strug­gle, sac­ri­fice and set­backs, our bet­ter angels have always prevailed.

In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us have come togeth­er to car­ry all of us for­ward. And we can do that now.

His­to­ry, faith and rea­son show the way, the way of uni­ty. 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.

For with­out uni­ty, there is no peace, only bit­ter­ness and fury.

No progress, only exhaust­ing outrage.

No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our his­toric moment of cri­sis and challenge.

And uni­ty is the path for­ward. And we must meet this moment as the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. If we do that, I guar­an­tee you we will not fail.

We have nev­er, ever, ever, ever failed in Amer­i­ca when we’ve act­ed together.

And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us.

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 we must reject the cul­ture in which facts them­selves are manip­u­lat­ed and even manufactured.

My fel­low Amer­i­cans: We have to be dif­fer­ent than this.

Amer­i­ca has to be bet­ter than this. And I believe Amer­i­ca is so much bet­ter than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shad­ow of the Capi­tol dome, as was men­tioned ear­li­er, com­plet­ed amid the Civ­il War, when the union itself was lit­er­al­ly hang­ing in the bal­ance. Yet we endured, we prevailed.

Here we stand look­ing out in the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand, where one hun­dred and eighty years ago, at anoth­er inau­gur­al, thou­sands of pro­test­ers tried to block brave women march­ing for the right to vote. And today we marked the swear­ing in of the first woman in Amer­i­can his­to­ry elect­ed to nation­al office: Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Harris.

Don’t tell me things can’t change!

Here we stand across the Potomac from Arling­ton Ceme­tery, where heroes who gave the last full mea­sure of devo­tion rest in eter­nal peace.

And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use vio­lence to silence the will of the peo­ple, to stop the work of our democ­ra­cy, to dri­ve us from this sacred ground. It did not happen.

It will nev­er happen.

Not today, not tomor­row, not ever.

Not ever!

To all those who sup­port­ed our cam­paign, I’m hum­bled by the faith you’ve placed in us. To all those who did not sup­port us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move for­ward. Take a mea­sure of me and my heart. If you still dis­agree so be it. That’s democ­ra­cy. That’s Amer­i­ca. The right to dis­sent, peace­ably, the guardrails of our repub­lic is per­haps this nation’s great­est strength.

Yet hear me clear­ly: dis­agree­ment must not lead to dis­union. And I pledge this to you, I will be a pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans. All Amer­i­cans. And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not sup­port me as for those who did.

Many cen­turies ago, Saint Augus­tine, a saint in my church, wrote to the peo­ple was a mul­ti­tude defined by the com­mon objects of their love.

Defined by the com­mon objects of their love. What are the com­mon objects we as Amer­i­cans love, that define us as Amer­i­cans? I think we know.

Oppor­tu­ni­ty, secu­ri­ty, lib­er­ty, dig­ni­ty, respect, hon­or and yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson.

There is truth and there are lies, lies told for pow­er and for profit.

And each of us has a duty and respon­si­bil­i­ty, as cit­i­zens, as Amer­i­cans, and espe­cial­ly as lead­ers, lead­ers who have pledged to hon­or our Con­sti­tu­tion and pro­tect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look, I under­stand that many of my fel­low Amer­i­cans view the future with fear and trep­i­da­tion. I under­stand they wor­ry about their jobs.

I under­stand, like my dad, they lay in bed at night, star­ing at the ceil­ing, won­der­ing, can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage?

Think­ing about their fam­i­lies, about what comes next.

I promise you, I get it.

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into com­pet­ing fac­tions, dis­trust­ing those who don’t look like look like you or wor­ship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this unciv­il war that pits red against blue, rur­al ver­sus urban, rur­al ver­sus urban, con­ser­v­a­tive ver­sus lib­er­al.

We can do this if we open our souls instead of hard­en­ing our hearts.

If we show a lit­tle tol­er­ance and humil­i­ty, and if we’re 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.

And if we are this way, our coun­try will be stronger, more pros­per­ous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

My fel­low Amer­i­cans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other.

We need all our strength to to per­se­vere through this dark win­ter. We’re enter­ing what may be the tough­est and dead­liest peri­od of the virus. We must set aside pol­i­tics and final­ly face this pan­dem­ic as One Nation.

One Nation.

And I promise you this, as the Bible says, “Weep­ing may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morn­ing.” We will get through this togeth­er. Together.

Look, folks, all my col­leagues I served with in the House of the Sen­ate up there, we all under­stand the world is watch­ing, watch­ing all of us today.

So here’s my mes­sage to those beyond our borders.

Amer­i­ca has been test­ed and we’ve come out stronger for it.

We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yes­ter­day’s chal­lenges, but today’s and tomor­row’s chal­lenges. And we’ll lead, not mere­ly by the exam­ple of our pow­er, but by the pow­er of our example.

We’ll be a strong and trust­ed part­ner for peace, progress and secu­ri­ty. Look, you all know, we’ve been through so much in this nation.

And my first act as Pres­i­dent, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remem­ber all those who we lost this past year to the pandemic.

Those four hun­dred thou­sand fel­low Amer­i­cans, moms, dads, hus­bands, wives, sons, daugh­ters, friends, neigh­bors and coworkers.

We will hon­or them by becom­ing the peo­ple and the nation we know we can and should be. So I ask you, let’s say a silent prayer for those who’ve lost their lives, those left behind and for our country.


Folks, this is a time of testing.

We face an attack on our democ­ra­cy and on truth, a rag­ing virus, grow­ing inequity, the sting of sys­temic racism, a cli­mate in cri­sis, Amer­i­ca’s role in the world. Any one of these will be enough to chal­lenge us in pro­found ways.

But the fact is, we face them all at once, pre­sent­ing this nation with one of the gravest respon­si­bil­i­ties we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested.

Are we going to step up? All of us? It’s time for bold­ness, for there is so much to do. And this is cer­tain, I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cas­cad­ing crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occa­sion, is the ques­tion. Will we mas­ter this rare and dif­fi­cult hour? Will we meet our oblig­a­tions and pass along a new and bet­ter world to our chil­dren? I believe we must. I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will.

And when we do, we’ll write the next great chap­ter in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. The Amer­i­can sto­ry. A sto­ry that might sound some­thing like a song that means a lot to me. It’s called Amer­i­can Anthem.

There’s one verse that stands out, at least for me, and it goes like this:

The work and prayers of a cen­tu­ry have brought us to this day.

What shall be our lega­cy? What will our chil­dren say?

Let me know in my heart when my days are through.

Amer­i­ca, Amer­i­ca, I gave my best to you. Let’s add. Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfold­ing sto­ry of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our chil­dren and our chil­dren’s chil­dren will say of us: They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a bro­ken land.

My fel­low Amer­i­cans, I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath before God and all of you. I give you my word, I will always lev­el with you.

I will defend the Constitution.

I’ll defend our democracy.

I’ll defend Amer­i­ca and I will give all, all of you, keep every­thing I do in your ser­vice, think­ing not of pow­er, but of pos­si­bil­i­ties, not of per­son­al inter­est, but the pub­lic good. And togeth­er we shall write an Amer­i­can sto­ry of hope, not fear.

Of uni­ty, not division.

Of light, not darkness.

A sto­ry of decen­cy and dig­ni­ty, love and heal­ing, great­ness and goodness.

May this be the sto­ry that guides us. The sto­ry that inspires us and the sto­ry that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

We met the moment.

Democ­ra­cy and hope, truth and jus­tice did not die on our watch, but thrived. That Amer­i­ca secured lib­er­ty at home and stood once again as a bea­con to the world. That is what we owe our for­bear­ers, one anoth­er and gen­er­a­tions to follow.

So, with pur­pose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time.

Sus­tained by faith, dri­ven by con­vic­tion, devot­ed to one anoth­er and the coun­try we love with all our hearts. 

May God bless Amer­i­ca and may God pro­tect our troops. Thank you, America.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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