Irish Examiner view: Joe Biden's inauguration represents a new dawn

Address spoke not to the power or size of America, but to its spirit, history, humanity, and purpose in the world
Irish Examiner view: Joe Biden's inauguration represents a new dawn

“I look forward to a great future for America — a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world, not only for its strength but for its civilisation as well.”

The words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy spoken on October 26, 1963, less than a month before he was assassinated in Dallas. 

He was speaking at Amherst College in Massachusetts, paying tribute to the poet Robert Frost, and emphasising the need for a president of the United States to have not only a political vision but an artistic and moral one too.

There is every sign that Joe Biden, embodies those sentiments and is determined to reinvigorate those moral and artistic visions for the United States. 

During his stirring inauguration address, he drew on the words of a poet and a songwriter. 

In a reference to a poem by Seamus Heaney, the 46th president of the United States declared:

This is America’s day, this is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope.

He also drew inspiration from the words of the song ‘American Anthem’ by Norah Jones, quoting: " The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day."

It is also clear that he recognises the huge task ahead, dealing with a pandemic that has taken 400,000 American lives, tackling climate change, systemic racism, an attack on democracy, and the need to heal a divided nation. 

The astonishing level of security at the inauguration ceremony served as a metaphor for a nation at war with itself.

Joe Biden has never been known as a great orator, yet his soulful call for unity amid division and his promise to heal America was perhaps his finest hour in a long political career. 

His speech was perfectly pitched, arguably one of the best since John F Kennedy’s in 1961. 

It was an address that spoke not to the size of America, nor to its power, but to its spirit, its history, its humanity, and to its purpose in the world.

Americans and, indeed, millions of people around the world, woke up to a new dawn, a feeling of hope and a renewed sense of optimism for the future as Joe Biden took the oath of office. 

At the age of 78, he is the oldest president to assume office. He is also the most Irish of presidents since Kennedy, with an equal grá for the place of his ancestors.

It was a day to celebrate diversity too, as Kamala Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, became the first female as well as the first person of colour to become vice-president.

Their inaugurations as president and vice-president represent a triumph over racism, sexism, and ageism. They now must show they are up to the task of uniting and rebuilding a divided and demoralised country.

All Donald Trump did as president was to make America hate again. It will be up to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to make it truly great again.

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