Joe Biden becomes 46th US president: inauguration recap and lookahead

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive for a wreath laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 20, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Tom Brenner

In his inaugural address today, President Joe Biden emphasized unifying this country and ending what he called an uncivil war: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, 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 if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes.” 

Stanford history professor David M. Kennedy tells KCRW what national leadership must do now: “The federal government needs to demonstrate that it can be a competent government that can deliver the goods, not least of all, improving the speed and reach of the COVID vaccine rollout. ... That kind of thing would go a long way to restoring the public's confidence in government.” 

Washington Post columnist Michele Norris points out that Biden has empathy, which she calls his “natural octave.” 

“He is quite good at that. … There was a lot of tough language in the inaugural address today. But there's a gentleness about Joe Biden. … That is the kind of thing that Joe Biden might be able to extend, some sort of olive branch so people are at least willing to perhaps listen to what he has to say and what he has to offer in terms of governance,” Norris says.