On Wednesday, we inaugurated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be President and Vice-President.
I started the day feeling optimistic, worried, determined, excited and grateful. Optimistic that today was finally here. Worried in spite of myself that everything would go off without a hitch. Determined and excited about the work ahead, and just plain grateful that I could be here representing Minnesotans.
We drove to my office in the Hart office building, passing through a check point with armed guards, fences and razor wire, and lots of National Guard troops. This was a stark reminder that, after the events of last week, we cannot say that we are experiencing a peaceful transition of power. As I looked at these young service members, I wondered how many were seeing our national capitol for the first time.
The Senators moved towards the Capitol about 10:15, and before long we were situated on the platform on the west side of the Capitol, a platform that just two weeks ago was overrun by a violent mob, intent on violence and overturning the election we were there today to celebrate. The contrast was stunning, and I know many of us were thinking about it. The Capitol Mall stretched away from us to the East, covered with flags to commemorate the 400,000 souls we have lost to COVID. It was beautiful and almost completely silent.
There’s a reason that America comes together, with all the pomp and ceremony, for Inaugurations. Certainly today we celebrate President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Inaugurating Vice President Harris feels especially personal for me. She has been my friend since I came to the Senate, I celebrate her for all the firsts she represents. But Inaugurations are also about our reverence for self-government and the power of our commitment to the rule of law. We honor President Biden and Vice President Harris because they were freely elected by the people; the people are the source of their power.
The President in his Inaugural message exhorted us to come together, and he also said we need to understand and reconcile with our past, including the events of the last two weeks. “We must end this uncivil war,” he said. He also said that we must unite around the truth, and understand the roots of the violence and hate that plagues us, in order to move forward. I think he’s right, and I know that Joe Biden is driven by empathy and understanding of what people’s lives are like.
Before I close, I hope everyone had a change to hear the remarkable National Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. At 22, she has a powerful voice. It’s remarkable that, like President Biden, she also suffered from a speech impediment when she was young, and has risen way beyond it. She stood strongly in this moment. I love this line from her poem “The Hill We Climb”
“And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. We witnessed and weathered a nation that isn’t broken, simply unfinished.”
We do have lots of unfinished work, and I’ll be heading back to the Senate Floor in a few hours to get at it.