'Time to heal in America': President-elect Joe Biden, VP-elect Kamala Harris talk of unity
In first address since securing the presidency, Joe Biden called for unity between all Americans. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden delivered a celebratory message aimed at healing and unity in his first remarks Saturday following a bitter and divisive battle for the presidency.
“America has always been shaped by inflection points, by moments in time we’ve made hard decisions about who we are what we want to be,” Biden said outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, where cheers and the horns from hundreds of cars could be heard between his words. “Folks, we stand at an inflection point.”
His remarks came as President Donald Trump continues to contest the results of the cliffhanger election, arguing without evidence that hundreds of thousands of votes are in question. Biden's address, in addition to setting the tone for his transition and presidency, was a symbol that the Democrat was working to move the nation past the contentious election.
“Folks, the people of this nation have spoken,” Biden said, kicking off his 15-minute victory speech. “They’ve delivered a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for we the people.”
Biden to Trump supporters: 'Let's give each other a chance'
Calling it a “time to heal in America,” Biden promised to restore a spirit of civility, decency and compromise to the White House. He said it is part of an election “mandate from the American people," setting a different tone from the tumultuous and divisive four years under Trump.
Biden also made a direct appeal to Trump supporters, some of whom protested the former vice president's election win Saturday outside statehouses across the country.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment,” Biden said empathetically. “I've lost a couple of times myself. But now let's give each other a chance. It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again."
He stuck to his campaign’s core message to the end, telling Americans he will seek to “restore the soul of this nation.” He pledged to be a president who “seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn't see red states and blue states, but only the United States.”
“Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end – here and now,” Biden said. “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”
Harris, first woman elected VP, calls US a 'country of possibilities'
Biden spoke hours after he crossed 270 electoral votes Saturday morning. Clinching a win in Pennsylvania put him over the top four days after Election Day as officials in several states continued to count a record volume of mail-in ballots cast during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, 77, the oldest president the country has elected, was introduced by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, wearing all white in nod to the suffragist movement. The first female vice president, Harris said she wouldn’t be the last.
“Every little girl that’s watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” said Harris, who will also become the first African American and South Asian American vice president.
“For four years, you marched and organized for equality and justice, for our lives and for our planet,” said Harris, a U.S. senator from California. “And then you voted. And you delivered a clear message. You chose hope and unity, decency and science and, yes, truth.”
She gave a nod to the work that Black women specifically have put into this nation's democracy. Black voters, particularly Black women, helped pushed Biden's victory in the primary and onto victory to the White House.
"Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all," she said, "including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy."
Vice-President elect Kamala Harris delivers historic speech as the first female vice president of the United States of America. USA TODAY
Biden to begin moves on COVID-19 plan next week
The two will be sworn into office Jan. 20 after electors meet Dec. 14 and Congress accepts the election results Jan. 6.
Their historic victory set off celebrations in the streets and parks across the country, from Washington, D.C., and New York to Atlanta and San Francisco.
Trump returned to the White House on Saturday afternoon after playing a round of golf, while thousands celebrated Biden's victory outside.
Biden secured the electoral win one day after the coronavirus pandemic reached an all-time high in daily positive cases and as the economy continues to struggle with high unemployment.
Biden said in his speech he plans to name a group of scientists and experts Monday as “transition advisers” to help implement his plan to combat the COVID-19 virus. He said the country cannot “repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life’s most precious moment” until the pandemic is under control.
“That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern,” he said. “I will spare no effort – or commitment – to turn this pandemic around.”
Biden: 'We must make the promise of the country real for everybody'
Biden, who spent four decades representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate and eight years as Barack Obama's vice president, entered the race last year betting a message of unity would prevail over Trump. He kept that message through a tough primary and the general election.
It was a call for decency and to counter the polarization stoked by Trump, who refused to condemn white nationalists, enacted travel bans targeting immigrants from Muslim nations, promised to build a wall at the Mexican border and denied systemic racism.
"The American story is about the slow, yet steady widening of opportunity," Biden said. "Make no mistake: Too many dreams have been deferred for too long. We must make the promise of the country real for everybody – no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability."
For Biden, his election is the pinnacle of a long political career. He ran twice for president before, losing in 2008 and 1988. He thought about running for president four years ago, but bowed out after his son, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer in 2015.
Biden closes speech with Catholic hymn
This year's election, the most unusual in recent history given the constraints of the pandemic, remained in doubt for days because of the unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots.
Pennsylvania, with 20 crucial electoral votes, was among states that could not begin processing its 2.6 million absentee ballots until Election Day. It meant initial numbers on election night showed Trump ahead before most of the mail-in ballots – which overwhelmingly favored Biden – could be tallied. Biden surpassed Trump in the vote tally on Friday and continues to build his lead.
Biden, who will become the nation's second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy, concluded his speech by recalling the Catholic hymn "On Eagle's Wings," a song he said was important to his family and Beau.
"It captures the faith that sustains me, which I believe sustains America. And I hope and I hope I can provide some comfort and solace," he told the crowd before reciting the hymn. "And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn. Make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand."
"And now, together – on eagle’s wings – we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do."
And with that, Biden's and Harris’ families, led by spouses Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, joined them on stage. Fireworks above spelled out the winners’ names as Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me” played on loud speakers.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison