I have no illusions that there will be a sudden end to the deep divisions that exist in our country. However, for one day, Inauguration Day, there was a sense of healing, a feeling that things can get back to normal.
President Biden is not a great orator, and at the inauguration he made some slip ups in his delivery, which is due to his stuttering. The speech was panned by the usual suspects, such as Sean Hannity. It had a purpose, and it conveyed the idea of unity. There was no reference to “American carnage” in this speech.
There was also a show of unity by past presidents of both parties: Bush, Clinton, and Obama showed up to both the inauguration and Arlington National Cemetery where they videotaped a message emphasizing unity. Vice President Mike Pence also came to the inauguration with his wife. Many of those in Congress who voted against certifying the election, such as Senator Ted Cruz, attended. They did the right thing by showing up and the Biden team made the right choice by welcoming them.
After the inauguration, the president, along with the vice president, went to Arlington National Cemetery to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was important because it sent a message of unity and respect for those who fought and died for this county. It also showed that even when there is a joy it is important to remember the sacrifices of others.
There was a picture of Senator Bernie Sanders at the inauguration sitting by himself. Contrast that with Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was the co-chair of the program along with Republican Senator Roy Blunt. It was a reminder that the moderates are in control.
On the night of the inauguration, there was a press conference with the new press secretary, Jen Psaki. It was a sharp contrast to the first press conference of the previous administration, in which the press secretary Sean Spicer started the first news conference attacking the press for incorrectly stating the crowd size of the inauguration. The new press secretary gave an introduction that she knows that there may be some disagreements between the press and the administration, but she will try to do her best to accurately answer their questions. She then took questions.
There is plenty of pain due to COVID-19. In addition to the more than 400,000 deaths and others sickened from the disease, there has been economic fallout. The President’s life story is one which makes him uniquely qualified to lead this country through this tough time. He lost his wife and daughter in a car accident when he was 29 and lost his son Beau a few years ago. He made a comment that he thought Beau was going to be the one who was going to be sworn in as president. Yet despite these personal tragedies, he was able to reach heights that few people have reached - and at an age when most people are retired. He was a senator, vice-president, and now the oldest president. He also remarried and raised a family. Biden’s ability to overcome adversity by dealing with it by trying to improve the lives of others instead of wallowing in self-pity or engage in self-destructive behavior is significant in our times. It gives hope to those who are suffering, that although times may seem bad now, it can get better if you use your energies in a positive manner.
I do not think that it was a coincidence that Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, was asked to be lead prosecutor for the impeachment trial. Raskin lost his son on December 31, 2020. His son was a second-year student at Harvard Law School and had suffered from depression; he committed suicide.
On January 17, Jake Tapper interviewed Congressman Raskin. Part of the interview reminded me of a shiva visit. Tapper asked Raskin about his son and why he agreed to be the lead prosecutor. Raskin responded, “But I did it really with my son in my heart and helping lead the way. I feel him in my chest. When we went to count the Electoral College votes, and it came under that ludicrous attack, I felt my son with me.” “Well, I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021. It’s not going to happen.” Tapper ended the interview, “May his memory be a blessing.” (Tapper went to the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.)
Biden is a practicing Catholic. For him, a church is not a place just to take a photo in front of holding an upside-down bible; he is a frequent attendee. On the day of the inauguration, he went to a Catholic church in Washington, DC with the majority and minority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This was another example of unity.
Biden has repeatedly said that his faith helped him get through his trying times. Although Biden is of a different faith than I am, it is comforting to see a person in the White House who embraces religion. For so many years religion has been under attack in America. Maybe the Biden presidency will see a reversal of this trend.
There are tough times ahead. I do not expect to agree with everything the president does. However, there is a different atmosphere in this country. It is an attempt to tone down the rhetoric and try to govern. It may be boring compared to the prior president, who kept things exciting with his tweets. However, here boring is good.