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'Let's start afresh': Biden sends message of hope in inauguration speech

·2 min read

Joe Biden's heartfelt appeal for unity as he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States lifted the mood at an inauguration ceremony like no other.

Amid massive security and before a drastically reduced audience on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden, not known for his oratory, delivered the speech of his life and called on Americans to "start afresh".

"This is a great nation. We are good people," the new president told Americans.

As he talked of the challenges facing the country, including the cry for racial justice, he declared "the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer".

Unite

But his overriding theme was that the American people must unite and pull together.

We need each other, he warned, to face enormous challenges. It is now time to "stop the shouting and lower the temperature".

And the new president, who earned a reputation in Congress as a consensus builder, insisted: "Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a total war."

He was applauded when he referred to the scourge of lies and falsehoods.

And as he rejoiced in the very first woman vice-president, decades after women marched for the right to vote, he exclaimed, "Don’t tell me things can’t change!"

'I get it'

Just two weeks after the attempted insurrection in the same place where he delivered his address Biden told his audience: "It did not happen, it will never happen. Not today not tomorrow. Not ever."

He asked those who had not voted for him to give him a chance, insisting that he would fight as hard for them as for those who had voted for him.

He described his father worrying about paying bills and looking after the family. "I promise you, I get it," he told struggling Americans.

Fellow citizens should "open souls instead of hardening hearts", he urged.

Repair, reach out

He then delivered what he said was a message to those beyond America’s borders.

"We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again...and lead by the power of example."

The country music singer Garth Brooks then sang Amazing Grace and asked people watching elsewhere to join him and unite together.

Earlier, Lady Gaga delivered the Star-Spangled Banner with typical audacity, J-Lo sang with joy. But the powerful delivery of an extraordinary poem by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate, was the most striking performance, ending to a standing ovation.

The Rev. Silvester Beaman’s voice faltered more than once as he spoke the closing prayer, ending with the words.

"We will make friends of our enemies," he said, just before Vice-President Kamala Harris escorted her Republican predecessor Mike Pence to his car.

They shared a joke and laughed.