Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes the presidential oath of office on Wednesday, and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the first woman and first Black American of Asian descent to be vice president.
Every four years, the nation chooses a leader the majority believes is the right person for that moment in time. Some wanted a different outcome, but in a democracy, there can only be one winner.
George Washington, the nation’s first president, set the tone and tenor for those who would follow as the leader of the country. On April 30, 1789, in his inaugural address, he said:
“No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
Our nation’s character has expanded over the years. Even though it is still being perfected, an enduring part of its founding legacy is a touchstone of all that is truly American:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The country, at points throughout our history, has failed at recognizing all as equal. It has defined liberty for some while denying it to others, and unalienable rights have been dictated all too often by those who, for the gain of naked power, have made a mockery of its endowment by an invisible creator, seeing themselves as gods on Earth.
The United States of America is a work unfinished, and each new generation is given an opportunity to shape the future. Still, we should never forget our past, even when it is bloody and void of grace, wisdom or love.
There are citizens who abhor and resist progress because it challenges their world view. Instead of embracing a world of possibilities for all they fear, they are losing ground. We are not diminished by others’ advancements but by our own failure to move forward.
Change and renewal are an essence of the human spirit; it is also the inevitable destiny of freedom-loving people. Is it every right to seek personal freedom at the expense of our neighbor? Are we not all enriched by expanding liberty for all?
Our nation is built on laws, not men — a cherished principle of truth. But there are misfits in our midsts who desire a cult of personality authoritarianism unaccountable to laws or truth. They are ready to throw off the constraints of the Constitution for the love of a single leader. This is not patriotism but madness.
The president’s office is transient on purpose because the founders — not all — determined a government of the people and not by divine right.
Today, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will place his hand on a Bible and say the following:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
George Washington is believed to have added, “So help me God.”
As citizens, we all should celebrate this day and wish President Biden and Vice President Harris success beyond measure.
May God bless the president, vice president and the United States of America.