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“Democracy Has Prevailed”: Joe Biden Sworn In as President; Kamala Harris Becomes First Female VP

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Joe Biden was sworn in as 46th president of the United States Wednesday, ending the Trump era with a call for national unity and urging Americans to come together during a period of turbulence. President Biden signed 17 executive orders in his first official act from the Oval Office, including on immigration, the pandemic and the climate crisis. Biden has promised more executive actions in the coming days. Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three new Democratic senators Wednesday afternoon, giving Democrats narrow control of the Senate and laying the groundwork for the administration’s ambitious agenda. We play highlights from the day.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Biden was sworn in as 46th president of the United States Wednesday, ending the Trump era with a call for national unity and urging Americans to come together during a period of turbulence. Biden spoke on the Capitol steps, that building that just two weeks ago prior was mobbed by a group of right-wing extremists trying to overthrow the election.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people — the will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.

So, now on this hallowed ground, where just days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. …

This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go. We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities, much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain.

Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. Once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country 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. A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear. And now a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity. Unity.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Joe Biden in his first address to the nation. Shortly before his speech, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latinx Supreme Court justice, a Puerto Rican daughter of the Bronx, swore in Kamala Harris as the first-ever woman, South Asian and Black vice president, a daughter of Oakland.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Kamala Devi Harris, do solemnly swear …

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I, Kamala Devi Harris, do solemnly swear …

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: … that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States …

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: … that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States …

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: … against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS:… against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

AMY GOODMAN: Later on Wednesday afternoon, Vice President Harris swore in three barrier-breaking new Democratic U.S. senators, giving Democrats narrow control of the Senate. Reverend Raphael Warnock is the first African American senator from Georgia and the first African American Democratic senator from the South. Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia. He’s also the youngest member of the Senate. Alex Padilla, who replaces Harris in the Senate representing California, is the first Latinx senator to represent California.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: The chair lays before the Senate two certificates of election for the state of Georgia and a certificate of appointment to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Kamala D. Harris of California.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden signed 17 executive orders in his first official act from the Oval Office on Wednesday, striking down Trump’s ban on travelers from majority-Muslim nations, ending construction of Trump’s border wall and strengthening DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young immigrants.

Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, put a moratorium on permits in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ordered a review of Trump’s actions undermining public health and the environment.

President Biden extended a federal moratorium on evictions and a pause on student loan payments and interest.

Biden also ordered the U.S. to reengage with the World Health Organization and ordered a mask mandate for interstate travelers and visitors to federal buildings during the pandemic.

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“The Work Continues”: Cornel West & Maria Hinojosa on the Promise & Dangers of the Biden Admin

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