Biden and Harris remembers 400,000 coronavirus victims with 400 lights as President-elect and wife with vice Harris and second gentleman holding hands at the ceremony honoring the victims of the pandemic: "Remember to heal"
The Trump era is over - and the new President Biden wants to fight for the unity of the nation above all. After he was sworn in, he urged his country to reunite.
It was around 11:52 a.m. local time when a different attitude took hold in the heart of Washington. Four minutes earlier, Joe Biden had sworn his oath as the 46th President of the United States, and now he began his inaugural address, which was intended to mark a profound contrast to the tone that Donald Trump, who left office on that day, had used in recent years.
Biden put his speech to the nation and the world under the terms of unity, confidence and awakening. Right at the beginning he reminded his audience of the lessons of the past few weeks, when the storm of the Capitol had brutally demonstrated to the Americans how fragile American democracy is - America now celebrates the "triumph of democracy". The answer to the attack on the core of the state must be the "American way," said Biden - "bold, optimistic and restless" to strive for a better society.
One president for everyone
Strive even more, work even harder, strive even more for improvement - the classic components of political speeches in the USA shaped Biden's speech. The common thread was the promise to fight for a united nation and to overcome the rifts in the country, Biden kept coming back to this point. He promised that he would be the president of all Americans, including those who had not elected him.
The new president remembered the people who had lost their lives in the corona pandemic, he denounced the inequality between the ethnic groups in the country and called on his fellow citizens to rethink: "Let's make a fresh start, everyone together." Kamala Harris, the first black female vice president of the USA with Jamaican-Indian roots, who was sworn in shortly before Biden, is also said to represent this.
Absent and yet there: Trump
During these and many other passages, someone like the famous white elephant stood on the balcony: Biden's predecessor Trump. Biden did not mention him by name, just as Trump did not mention him when he left Washington. But that Biden was about a fundamental departure from the political spirit of the past four years and about a different political culture, spoke from almost every sentence of the new president.
He opposed the spread of false reports and conspiracy theories: "We have to reject the culture in which facts are manipulated and even fabricated," he said. America must be better than that.
And he also promised the partners of the USA a fresh start - "we will go into the world again", he said and announced that the USA would be a "strong partner for security and peace".
The contrast to Trump's inauguration four years ago, when he told the world from the balcony of the Capitol that from now on only "America first" would apply, could not have been greater.
Oath of office without a spectator
The outward appearance of the inauguration differed significantly from the ceremony in 2017. At that time, it was then about how many spectators had attended the inauguration - this year the "mall" in front of the Capitol had to remain empty due to the corona. Instead of hundreds of thousands of spectators, around 200,000 small US flags represented the people in the open space between the Parliament building and the Lincoln Memorial.
Stars like Lady Gaga, who sang the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez gave the event some of the glamor it used to be. But the presence of 25,000 National Guardsmen in the capital always reminded visitors of the abyss their country had recently looked into.
And on the balcony, all participants in the ceremony wore masks - this also differs from the farewell event that Trump had held for himself that morning at a military airport near Washington.
Self-praise at the end
For the first time in 150 years, an outgoing president did not take part in the inauguration of his successor. In front of the crowded supporters, family members and employees on Base Andrews, Trump once again praised the successes of his term in office and announced that he would return "in some form".
Trump left open what he meant by that, whether he wanted to announce an attempt at a political comeback or some other form of public presence. The Trump family then flew to their Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on the Air Force One presidential plane.
Decisions on the first day
In normal times, Biden's day would have ended with attending numerous inaugural balls in Washington. But the times are not after, and so the new president has announced a whole series of decisions for the first day that are intended to mark a break with Trump's politics - for example on the fight against the corona virus, racism and climate policy.
Don't waste time - Biden knows he has to hurry. In the US Senate there is a tie between Republicans and Democrats, here the vote of Harris will make the difference. That Biden will endeavor to reach out to the republicans in power, he made it clear with a gesture that morning when he invited top politicians of the party to a service before the inauguration.
Whether this will be the beginning of a new willingness to cooperate in Washington remains to be seen - soon there will be a debate in the Senate about the impeachment of Trump.