WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address on Wednesday that the United States must confront and defeat the rise of white supremacy and domestic extremism.
Biden directly addressed the need to combat systemic racism, nativism, injustice and inequality, urging Americans to "treat each other with dignity and respect" and to "stop the shouting."
President Biden called on Americans to "reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even fractured," saying "there is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit," urging Americans to "defend the truth and defeat the lies."
Biden said the U.S. will repair its alliances around the world and will be a strong partner for peace. "America has been tested and we've come out stronger for it," he said. "We will lead not by the example of our power but by the power of our example."
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this, if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts," Biden said. "If we show a little tolerance, if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes.”
The inauguration ceremony unfolded in front of a heavily fortified U.S. Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that the election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes.
The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time.
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Biden also said he would immediately reset the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic that left the country reeling from its worst public health crisis in more than a century.
As part of a first sweep of executive actions, Biden will order that all federal employees wear masks and make face coverings mandatory on federal property.
He will establish a new White House office to coordinate the coronavirus response and halt the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, a process initiated by former President Donald Trump.
The orders will fulfill Biden's campaign promise to make COVID-19 relief a top priority and will mark a sharp divergence from the Trump administration's pandemic response, which critics say was ineffectual, uncoordinated and at least partly responsible for the death of more than 400,000 Americans.
Minutes after Biden took his oath of office at a scaled-back inauguration ceremony unlike any other in U.S. history, he asked onlookers to join him in a silent prayer for the 400,000 Americans who perished from COVID-19.
"We're entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation," Biden said.
He delivered his inaugural speech looking out across the National Mall, which was covered in a "field of flags" instead of typical inauguration crowds since citizens were told to stay home to avoid the risk of contagion.
Reuters contributed to this report.