Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, vowing to end the “uncivil war” in a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans.
Hours after taking the oath of office, Mr. Biden undid some of Donald Trump’s key policies.
He then signed fifteen executive orders, firstly to boost the federal response to the coronavirus crisis.
Among the presidential actions Biden signed were moves to rejoin the Paris climate accord, end a travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries, and halt Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation.
Biden made rejoining the climate agreement a key point of his presidential campaign.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. president’s move.
Biden also ended the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan, which the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit civil rights organisation, applauded, calling the travel policy a “cruel Muslim ban that targeted Africans.”
“There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face,” the former Delaware senator tweeted as he headed to the White House following his inauguration.
Wednesday’s inauguration, which also included that of former senator from California, Kamala Harris, as the country’s first woman vice-president, was unlike any other due to coronavirus restrictions. Fewer dignitaries than usual were allowed in to witness the oaths and ceremonies.
Former Republican President Donald Trump, who has still not formally conceded the presidency to Mr. Biden, snubbed the event in a departure from longstanding precedent.
The last leader not to attend his successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson, who, following his impeachment, stayed away from ceremonies ushering in Ulysses Grant as president 152 years ago.
“Democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” President Biden told the nation after taking the oath of office with Chief Justice John Roberts.
He sought to deliver a message of unity after the turbulent Trump years, promising to be a president “for all Americans” – including those who voted against him.