PBS NewsHour


Biden sworn in as the 46th president

This day has seen the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. as the 46th president of the United States. He was sworn in Wednesday to lead the nation into the post-Trump era, facing deep political divisions and the worst public health crisis in a century. And Kamala Harris made history as the first woman and first person of color to be sworn in as vice president. John Yang reports.

AIRED: January 20, 2021 | 0:05:44

JUDY WOODRUFF: This day has seen the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. as the 46th

president of the United States. He was sworn in today to lead the nation into the post-Trump

era, facing the worst public health crisis in a century and deep political divisions.

And Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman, first Black, and first Asian to serve

in that role, was sworn in on this historic day.

John Yang begins our coverage.

JOHN YANG: Today's was an inauguration unlike any other before. Missing were the usual crowds,

banished due to concerns about security and the pandemic, and replaced on the National

Mall by 200,000 flags.

Taking the oath as vice president...

KAMALA HARRIS, Vice President of the United States: I, Kamala Devi Harris, do solemnly


JOHN YANG: ... the first woman and first woman of color.

And the oldest person ever elected to the nation's highest office took the presidential


JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., do solemnly


JOHN YANG: Mr. Biden used the family Bible on which he had twice taken the vice presidential

oath and seven times as senator.

JOHN ROBERTS, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: So help you God?

JOE BIDEN: So help me God.

JOHN ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.


JOHN YANG: Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol still scarred by this month's deadly assault

by a pro-Trump mob, the 46th president called for unity.

JOE BIDEN: We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at

this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.


JOE BIDEN: 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.


JOHN YANG: He acknowledged that the task will not be easy.

JOE BIDEN: 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.

JOHN YANG: And he called for the nation's political discourse to change.

JOE BIDEN: 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.

JOHN YANG: Looking on, predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, with whom

he served as vice president, and Mr. Biden's successor in that office, Mike Pence.

The day's theme of America united was carried on by Amanda Gorman, at 22, the youngest inaugural

poet in U.S. history.

AMANDA GORMAN, First National Youth Poet Laureate: We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

MAN: On this day, where we emphasize national unity...

JOHN YANG: The new president's entire day underscored that idea, from morning mass at

St. Matthew's Cathedral with congressional leaders from both parties, to a military pass

in review on the Capitol's East Front, and a wreath-laying ceremony with former Presidents

Clinton, Bush and Obama at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

President Biden traveled through a city on high alert. More than 25,000 National Guard

troops patrolled a downtown largely off-limits to visitors and traffic. Coast Guard vessels

kept watch on the Potomac River.

Entering the White House for the first time as president, Mr. Biden quickly got down to

business, signing 17 executive orders on issues ranging from the pandemic to climate change

and sending Congress his sweeping immigration bill.

DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: A great honor, the honor of a lifetime.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In his final hours as president, Donald Trump was busy too, issuing scores

of commutations and pardons to allies.

QUESTION: Do you have any regrets about your presidency?

JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump left Washington this morning, the first time in more than 150 years

an outgoing president skipped his successor's inaugural. He never spoke with his successor

or even uttered his name in public.

Mr. Trump did follow one tradition, leaving a handwritten Oval Office note for his successor.

Addressing supporters at Andrews Air Force Base, Mr. Trump pledged to be back in some


DONALD TRUMP: I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening. And

I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration

great luck and great success.

JOHN YANG: President Trump arrived at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida before

his successor was sworn in.

In Washington, President Biden settled in at the White House, where the challenges of

the pandemic, the wounded economy, a polarized nation, and crises yet to come lie ahead.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.