Soon after taking charge as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, Joe Biden issued orders to reverse a number of Donald Trump’s divisive policies including returning to global health body, joining climate pact and rescinding Muslim ban.
Standing on the steps of a US Capitol that was ransacked exactly two weeks earlier by pro-Trump mobs seeking to overturn his victory, Biden swore the presidential oath on a bulging century-old family Bible moments after Kamala Harris officially became America’s first woman vice president.
“Democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden said before a National Mall that was virtually empty due to the ultra-tight security and a raging Covid-19 pandemic that he vowed to confront swiftly.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility and we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes,” he said.
“Together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear, of unity, not division, of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing and goodness.”
WATCH: Joe Biden takes oath as president of the United States
But Trump, who falsely said that he was cheated out of a second term and egged on his supporters before their deadly rampage at the Capitol, broke 152 years of tradition by refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration.
Biden pushed through a flurry of orders the moment he entered the White House, starting with rejoining the 2015 Paris climate accord, from which the US withdrew under Trump, an ally of the fossil fuel industry.
“We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far,” the new US leader said in the Oval Office as he signed papers on the Paris deal, which was negotiated by Barack Obama when Biden was his vice president.
Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said his first call to a foreign leader would be on Friday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — after Biden blocked the Keystone XL pipeline fiercely opposed by environmentalists but backed by Ottawa.
Biden also halted the US exit from the World Health Organization, stopped construction of Trump’s cherished wall on the Mexican border and rescinded a ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority nations.
“As a nation built on religious freedom and tolerance, we welcome people of all faiths and those of no faith at all. It is who we are,” said the new State Department spokesman, Ned Price.