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Biden sworn in as 46th US president, takes helm of deeply divided nation

Biden sworn in as 46th US president, takes helm of deeply divided nation
January 20, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, assuming the helm of a country reeling from deep political divides, a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

With his hand on an heirloom Bible that has been in his family for more than a century, Biden took the presidential oath of office administered by US Chief Justice John Roberts just after noon (1700 GMT), vowing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Biden, 78, became the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus and security concerns following the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.

The norm-defying Trump flouted one last convention on his way out of the White House when he refused to meet with Biden or attend his successor’s inauguration, breaking with a political tradition seen as affirming the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump, who never conceded the Nov. 3 election, did not mention Biden by name in his final remarks as president on Wednesday morning, when he touted his administration’s record and promised to be back “in some form.” He boarded Air Force One for the last time and headed to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, attended Biden’s inauguration, along with former US Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.

Harris used two Bibles, including one owned by Thurgood Marshall, the first Black US Supreme Court Justice.

Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downtown, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.