A wounded nation gets the healing touch and the promise for a better and a more orderly tomorrow. The message of unity and democratic spirit shines through the inaugural address of Joe Biden who took over the reins as the 46th President after winning a tough battle for the soul of America. Never in recent history did the country face such a moment of angst; widening racial divide and a society that is politically radicalised and torn between conflicting versions of reality and identity. A pandemic is raging nearly unchecked. The economy is in tatters. The climate is in crisis. For someone who has inherited a confluence of crises, accentuated by the politics of hatred, Biden has chosen the role of a healer, putting reconciliation over partisan politics and offering an overarching prescription for the nation’s ills: Unity. It was truly a sanguine message to deliver from the steps of the Capitol Hill, two weeks after the building was attacked by a mob, instigated by his predecessor Donald Trump, trying to overturn the results of a democratically held election. Perhaps Biden’s own experience with trauma— the death of his first wife and daughter in a car accident and his son due to brain cancer—can help him heal the country’s wounds. By promising to work for all Americans, including those who did not vote for him, he has sought to end a tumultuous chapter in the country’s history, a task which calls for, in his own words, “opening our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
The challenges before the new President are daunting. The most important among them is to bring the focus back on responsible politics because too many Americans were sold the lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen. In his inaugural address, Biden rightly identified the challenges facing his presidency — a devastating pandemic, massive job losses, a threatened environment, urgent calls for racial justice and a resurgence of political extremism. A string of executive orders issued on the first day on handling the pandemic, immigration and climate change reflected his priority areas aimed at sending a message that his administration plans to re-engage on the global stage. Key among them are reversing the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate accord, ending the travel ban on visitors from some Muslim countries and rolling back key energy and climate regulations of his predecessor. With the Democrats now controlling Congress, Biden, the oldest President with vast legislative experience and known for his balanced and centrist approach, has an opportunity to implement an ambitious presidential agenda. While doing so, keeping the nation united and the political discourse saner would be a significant accomplishment in itself.
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