President Joe Biden salutes as his wife Jill puts her hand over her heart as they review the troops from the steps of the U.S…
President Joe Biden salutes as his wife, Jill, puts her hand over her heart as they review the troops from the steps of the US Capitol during the inauguration, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.

WASHINGTON - Democrat Joe Biden, a fixture in Washington for nearly a half century, was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th U.S. president and called on Americans to unite in support of each other in what he called “a winter of peril and significant possibilities.”

Biden, at 78, became the country’s oldest leader ever after serving 36 years as a U.S. senator and eight as vice president. He took the presidential oath of office on the steps of the Capitol, swearing to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, on a chilly, wind-swept day.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President as her spouse Doug Emhoff holds a bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

Shortly before, Kamala Harris, a former senator from California, the country’s most populous state, was sworn in as vice president, becoming the highest ranking female official in more than two centuries of U.S. history. She is of Black and Indian heritage.

In his inaugural address, Biden said, “My whole soul is in this.”

Biden promised to be the president of all Americans, not just those who voted for him in his victory in the November election over President Donald Trump.

Trump became the first president in 152 years to skip his successor’s inauguration and instead left Washington before the ceremony to head to his Atlantic coastal mansion in Florida as his term ended.

Biden said, “To all those who did not support us, let me say this: hear me out as we move forward; take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy.”

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.

But he said, “We must end this uncivil war” pitting Americans against each other.

“We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors,” he said. “We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature."

He also pledged to be honest with the country as it faces the soaring number of coronavirus infections, a death toll that has topped 400,000 and a reeling economy that has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of Americans.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his speech after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front…
Full Text of President Joe Biden's Inaugural Speech
The complete text of President Joe Biden's speech on Inauguration Day

Biden promised “to defend the truth and defeat the lies,” but did not mention Trump in his address or the former president’s baseless contention since the November vote that rampant fraud cost him another four-year term in the White House. Trump lost dozens of court challenges alleging vote and vote-counting errors.

Biden said, “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

“This is America’s day,” he said. “This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”

Hours after his inauguration, Biden, who served eight years as vice president under former President Barack Obama, signed a number of executive orders and other presidential actions.

Among them were reengaging with the World Health Organization, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, reversing Trump’s ban on entry to the United States from several primarily Muslim countries, launching a government effort to advance racial equity in the United States, boosting protections for people who entered the country illegally as minors and challenging Americans to do “their patriotic duty” by wearing masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Arriving at the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon, Biden said that Trump had left him a “very generous letter.” Biden refused to give more details, indicating that the letter was “private.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama arrive before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Later in the afternoon, Press Secretary Jen Psaki held the administration’s first press briefing, emphasizing that the administration respected a free press and was committed to being transparent.

In response to a question on how Biden planned to restore the U.S. reputation globally, Psaki said “his priority is first rebuilding our partnerships and alliances around the world.”

“Let’s do this again tomorrow,” Psaki told reporters after answering their questions for roughly 40 minutes.

The morning’s swearing-in ceremonies were witnessed by three former presidents — Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — and former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, who was herself defeated by Trump in the 2016 election.

Normally, U.S. presidential inaugurations draw thousands of well-wishers, but not this time. Access to the National Mall in front of the Capitol was sharply restricted for both security reasons and the fear that letting people jam together would add to the soaring number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. Instead of people on the Mall, there were thousands of red, white and blue American flags whipping in the wind.

The usual throng of Washington dignitaries witnessing a presidential inauguration was sharply limited in the seats behind Biden and Harris and their spouses -- first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Chairs for some of the invited guests were widely spaced in line with coronavirus restrictions recommended by health authorities and those attending all wore face masks.

The ceremony was conducted amid extraordinary security, with tall metal fencing topped by razor wire surrounding the inauguration site after intelligence reports warned that Trump supporters angered by the congressionally certified outcome of the ex-president's defeat could attempt to disrupt the ceremony.

But the day’s events at the Capitol were peaceful.

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff salute.
In Photos: Biden-Harris Inauguration
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris sworn in at noon in inauguration that has been scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic

The inauguration took place two weeks to the day after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to block lawmakers from certifying the Electoral College vote affirming that Biden defeated Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

A week ago, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting insurrection by urging thousands of his supporters at a January 6 rally to walk to the Capitol to confront lawmakers as they confirmed Biden’s victory. Trump, even though his four-year term has ended, is facing a Senate impeachment trial in the coming days.

A U.S. Capitol police officer stands on the West Front of the Capitol before Joe Biden's presidential inauguration in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

The inauguration took place two weeks to the day after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to block lawmakers from certifying the Electoral College vote affirming that Biden defeated Trump in the November election.

A week ago, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting insurrection by urging thousands of his supporters at a January 6 rally to walk to the Capitol to confront lawmakers as they confirmed Biden’s victory. Trump, even though his four-year term has ended, is facing a Senate impeachment trial in the coming days.

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden attend a church service before his presidential inauguration, at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

The Bidens and Harris and her husband began Wednesday by attending a church service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. At Biden’s invitation, they were joined by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

By the time the service started, Trump had left the White House and was on his way to his retreat in Florida.  Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence skipped the Trump sendoff but attended Biden’s inauguration with his wife Karen and exchanged pleasantries with Harris and Emhoff.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris gestures towards U.S. Vice President Mike Pence ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States .

After the inauguration ceremony, Biden and Harris headed to Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Bush, Clinton and Obama also participated.

Biden, who served eight years as vice president under Obama, then was scheduled to sign a number of executive orders and other presidential actions.

His transition team said those would include re-engaging with the World Health Organization, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, reversing Trump’s ban on entry to the United States from several primarily Muslim countries, launching a government effort to advance racial equity in the United States, boosting protections for people who entered the country illegally as minors and challenging Americans to do “their patriotic duty” by wearing masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks on during the National Anthem during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Wednesday evening, which is typically filled with extravagant balls on Inauguration Day, instead featured a television special called “Celebrating America” with musical performances from John Legend, Katy Perry, the Foo Fighters and Justin Timberlake.

Biden addressed the event as well, telling Americans, “I will give my all to you.”

“This is a great nation,” he said. “We're a good people. And to overcome the challenges in front of us requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity. It requires us to come together in common love that defines us as Americans, opportunity, liberty, dignity and respect, and to unite against common foes, hate, violence, disease and hopelessness. America's story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people.”