Vice President Kamala Harris makes history
By Terry Miller and Fabiola Diaz
America had a major changing of the guard Wednesday when Donald J. Trump left the White House to Joseph R. Biden, who is now the 46th president of the United States.
We now find a new administration at the helm of the ship which seemed to have lost its course. It finds a nation deeply divided amid a pandemic and economic crisis but with hope that the new kids on the block of Pennsylvania Avenue will charter a new course of stability and healing.
After placing his hand on a family bible to be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Biden delivered an address emphasizing unity.
“This is America’s day,” began the newly inaugurated president. “This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”
After a tumultuous transition — including an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the former president seeking to overturn the election and an impeachment — Biden declared: “We’ve learned, again, that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Biden inherits a country facing various crises and he acknowledged this in his speech to the nation. “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now: A once in a century virus that silently stalks the country. It has 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,” he said.
On top of this, Biden recognized that the country will also need to address the “cry for racial justice,” “a cry for survival” from the planet, and “now a rise at political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
The new president then called for unity. “We can treat each other with dignity and respect,” he advocated. “Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of this is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. Unity is the path forward. We must meet this moment as the United States of America.”
In juxtaposition to his predecessor’s words about “American carnage,” the president offered a different path forward.
“Politics does not have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path,” he offered. “Every disagreement does not have to be a cause for total war. We must reject the culture to which facts themselves are manipulated and manufactured.”
Biden’s swearing and address was preceded by Vice President Kamala Harris being sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Harris, who earlier in the week resigned as California’s junior U.S. senator, placed her hand on a bible that once belonged to civil rights icon and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to take her oath. She made history by becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to become the nation’s vice president.
Memories of the violence at the Capitol were not far as Harris was escorted by Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer who faced down a mob alone and diverted them from the unlocked Senate chamber. Goodman has been credited with potentially saving the lives of those still inside.
As vice president, Harris will become president of an evenly divided Senate. She may end up casting the decisive vote in upcoming legislative fights. One of her first official acts will be to swear in three new Democratic senators, including the man who will take her seat in the chamber. Alex Padilla, California’s first Latino senator, will take his oath alongside Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s two new senators.
The videos and still photographs of the Capitol insurrection two weeks ago are almost surreal in their horror, albeit vivid in our collective consciousness. Wednesday served as a stark contrast to those images.