Under sunny skies in D.C., Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday at noon. Promising relief and reform, Biden and his Vice President Kamala Devi Harris are taking the office following a historic four years of division.

Using a family Bible, Biden took the presidential oath on the exact same steps he was sworn into the vice presidency in 2009 and again in 2013. With the last few months in the collective minds of viewers and listeners alike, the words “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” in the oath, has taken on a more literal meaning.

Biden’s swearing in came moments after Harris’ historic swearing in. In her new office, Harris becomes the highest-ranking woman in United States history and the first woman ever to win national office. She is also the first black American and person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency.

In an inaugural address, the president used the word “unity” repeatedly. “We must end this uncivil war — red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” Biden said. “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.”

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The ceremony was well-attended on the West Front, but outgoing former President Donald Trump was not standing among the diplomats and officeholders. His Vice President Mike Pence, however, stood clapping.

Trump left for his Palm Beach, Florida club hours before the inauguration, but he will soon have to face the Senate trial on his second impeachment. The former president will still have to face charges in the Capitol building that he incited an insurrection among a mob of supporters who stormed the very same building.

This afternoon’s ceremony was held in the shadow of both a deadly pandemic and rioters storming the West Front of the Capitol just two weeks ago. The more than 20,000 National Guard members deployed to D.C. blocked off a majority of downtown starting in the early hours of the morning.

Later this afternoon, further demonstrating his theme of “unity,” Biden will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Several other inauguration traditions have been altered or canceled as a result of COVID-19, or security concerns.

As the new president finished his address on the West Front, there were a few snowflakes falling in view. In the picturesque weather, Biden concluded that “together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear; of unity, not division; of light, not darkness. May this be the story that guides us, the story that inspires us.”

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