Biden Says US Will Repair Its Alliances, Calls for Americans to Unite

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Joe Biden sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

President Joe Biden said the U.S. will engage partners and allies to meet tomorrow's challenges in his first speech as commander in chief.

Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters broke into the building Jan. 6. He was surrounded by 25,000 National Guard members, who descended on the nation's capital in recent days over security concerns surrounding the transfer of presidential powers.

"We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to beat 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," Biden told an Inauguration Day crowd that was significantly scaled down due to security concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security," he added.

Though he didn't mention him by name, Biden's remarks seemed to rebuke Trump's America First approach to foreign policy that alienated some partners and allies over the last four years.

Trump broke with tradition Wednesday by leaving Washington, D.C., ahead of Biden's inauguration, opting against attending. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol two weeks ago when it was overtaken, was present, sitting behind Vice President Kamala Harris.

Harris made history, becoming the nation's first female, Black and Asian-American vice president. She was escorted by U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, a former Army infantryman, who led a mob of protesters away from lawmakers during the riot and has been promoted to acting deputy House sergeant at arms.

Lady Gaga sang the national anthem; Jennifer Lopez and the President's Own Marine Band performed "This Land Is Your Land;" and Garth Brooks closed the ceremony with "Amazing Grace."

Biden's speech was light on comments about how he'll lead the military, instead focusing largely on rebuilding unity during a period of great political division. The rise of extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism must be confronted and defeated, he said.

That echoed remarks Biden's defense secretary nominee laid out before a Senate committee Tuesday. Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general on track to be the first Black defense secretary, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he'll rid the ranks of extremists and other personnel dividing the ranks.

Americans are being tested, Biden said, referencing what he called an attack on democracy two weeks ago and a war on truth. At the same time, he added, the coronavirus pandemic continues sickening and killing thousands of Americans daily, and the country is fighting to stamp out racism.

Biden pledged to prioritize the nation's response to the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.

"Any one of these [problems] will be enough to challenge us in profound ways," Biden said. "But the fact is, we face that all at once, presenting the nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we've had. ... Are we going to step up?"

In calling for unity, Biden stressed that he's a president serving all Americans. A recent NBC News poll found that 35% of voters -- including 74% of Republicans, 30% of Independents and 3% of Democrats -- believe Biden did not win the election legitimately. That's after former Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the election's outcome.

Biden called for an end to the "uncivil war" he says is pitting Americans against each other depending on how they look, where they worship, or where they get their news.

"We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts," he said. "If we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment."

Biden is scheduled to review the readiness of military troops in a pass-in-review ceremony Wednesday. Members of all the military branches typically participate, during which newly sworn-in presidents receive their first salute as commander in chief.

Biden, the first lady, Harris and the second gentleman are scheduled to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, where they'll lay a wreath Wednesday afternoon.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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