Three former US presidents on Wednesday recorded a remarkable video message for their friend Joe Biden, promising to help him with whatever he needed and wishing him and the country well.
In a strong sign of unity, much needed after the divisive last four years, the two Democrats – Barack Obama and Bill Clinton – and a Republican, George W. Bush, spoke of their hopes for the future while standing in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
The trio also spoke of the importance of a peaceful transition of power and establishing unity across the nation.
Donald Trump was notably absent after he left Washington earlier on Wednesday, becoming the first president since Andrew Jackson in 1869 to snub his successor’s inauguration.
Jimmy Carter, 96, stayed away due to COVID concerns but sent a message of congratulations.
Obama, Bush and Clinton recorded a message to their friend Joe Biden for Wednesday’s show
Obama, 59, spoke of the importance of democratic tradition and a peaceful transfer of power
George W. Bush, 74, told Biden: ‘Mr. President, I’m pulling for your success’
Bill Clinton, also 74, said he was ‘glad’ that Biden had won – praising a man he’s known for years
Clinton, Bush and Obama stood at a safe distance from each other while filming the video in a conversational style.
‘We have got to not just listen to folks we agree with, but listen to folks we don’t,’ Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president from 2009 to 2017, said.
‘One of my fondest memories of the inauguration, was the grace and generosity that President Bush showed me, and Laura Bush showed Michelle,’ he continued, making no mention of Trump.
‘It was a reminder, that we can have a fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us.
‘If in fact we are looking for what binds us together, the American people are strong, there’re tough, they can get through hardship and there’s no problem they cannot solve, when we are working together.’
Clinton chimed in to say he was ‘glad’ Biden had triumphed in the 2020 election, adding: ‘We’re ready to march with you.’
‘We are both trying to come back to normalcy, deal with totally abnormal challenges, and do what we do best, which is try to make a more perfect union. It’s an exciting time,’ he said.
Bush added: ‘I think the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power, speaks to the institutional integrity of our country.
‘America’s a generous country, people of great hearts. All three of us were lucky to be the president of this country.
‘Mr President, I’m pulling for your success. Your success is our country’s success. God bless you.’
Former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton wait for Biden at Arlington National Cemetery with their respective first ladies – Michelle, Laura and Hillary, after the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday afternoon
Biden and Obama greet each other with a fist bump after the former was sworn in as the 46th president
Bush and his wife Laura take their seats at the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol
Bill and Hillary Clinton wave to fans at the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday afternoon
The video appeared to have been filmed after the trio joined Biden and his right-hand Kamala Harris at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Obama, Bush and Clinton – who each also attended the swearing-in ceremony – were accompanied by their respective first ladies – Michelle, Laura and Hillary.
The scene underlined how Trump had made himself an outcast from America’s smallest – and most exclusive – club.
Trump had railed against all three former presidents, especially Obama, but had also dismissed Bush, privately calling him a ‘dummy,’ while his one-time friendship with Bill Clinton was shattered by the bitterness of the 2016 election campaign.
The hostility was reciprocated: Members of the Bush family were critical of Trump throughout his administration. Four years ago at inauguration, George W. Bush commented ‘That was some weird s**t.’
In contrast, while Obama was extremely critical of Bush when running for president in 2008, those two families have developed a friendly relationship, especially between Bush and Michelle Obama. Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush became close friends after the 41st president’s defeat.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet a crowd before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Wednesday morning after opting not to attend the inauguration
Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive for the 59th Presidential Inauguration
Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura arrive for the 59th Presidential Inauguration
From left, Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Barack and Michelle Obama greet each other at the swearing-in
Vice President Kamala Harris greets Obama ahead of the inauguration
Biden watched the remarks by his successors from the White House on Wednesday night during a star-studded virtual inauguration event ‘Celebrating America’ on Wednesday night.
The 78-year-old was surrounded by his family and held his youngest grandchild, Beau, in his arms. Beau Biden, the eight-month-old son of Hunter Biden, is named after Hunter’s late brother, who died in 2015 aged 46.
The baby seemed transfixed by the spectacle on television, and his grandfather delighted in dancing with the little boy in his arms.
Biden delivered a speech at the start of the show, in which he called for unity and said he believes the best is yet to come for the nation.
Speaking at the Lincoln Memorial just hours after he was sworn into office as the 46th US President, Biden said: ‘It is humbling to stand here in this place in front of these sacred words. Humbling out of respect to President Lincoln and the office we now share and humbling because of you, the American people.
‘As I said earlier today, we have learned again that democracy is precious and because of you democracy has prevailed.’
Biden continued that he and his wife Jill, in addition to Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, ‘wanted to make sure out inauguration was not about us but about you, the American people.’
‘This is a great nation. We’re a good people and [to] overcome the challenges in front of us requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy — unity. It requires us to come together in common love that defines us as Americans,’ he said.
Eight-month-old Beau Biden, in his grandfather’s arms, appears to enjoy Demi Lovato’s performance
Baby Beau is named after his uncle, who died in 2015 at the age of 46 after battling brain cancer
Joe and Jill Biden are seen huddling together on the White House balcony as the Celebrating America show came to a stunning close
Fireworks are seen above the White House during the ceremony’s closing
President Joe Biden reiterated his calls for unity and insisted he believes the ‘best is yet to come’ for the nation during his speech at the primetime inauguration special, Celebrating America, on Wednesday night
‘Will we meet the moment like our forebears have?’ he asked. ‘I believe we must and I believe we will. You, the American people are the reason why I have never been more optimistic about America that I am this very day’
In her first address as the nation’s Vice President, meanwhile, Kamala Harris talked about the power of ‘American Aspiration’.
JOE BIDEN’S PROCLAMATION OF UNITY
I am humbled before God and my fellow Americans to take the sacred oath of President of our beloved country.
Today, we celebrate the triumph of democracy after an election that saw more Americans voting than ever before in our Nation’s history, and where the will of the people has been heard and heeded.
We do so at a moment of great peril and promise for our Nation. A once-in-a-century deadly pandemic. A historic and deepening economic crisis. Calls for racial justice some 400 years in the making. A climate crisis with force and fury. We also feel the rise in political extremism and domestic terrorism –- unleashed just days ago on our Capitol, the citadel of freedom, but brewing long before –- that we must confront and defeat.
Yet in this dire moment, democracy prevailed. On this day, we set our sights on the Nation we know we can and must be. I am honored to do so alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman who has taken the oath to serve in elected national office, and who will not be the last. Together, we know that to overcome the challenges before all of us, to restore the soul of America, requires the beating heart of a democracy: Unity.
With unity, we can save lives and beat this pandemic. We can build our economy back better and include everyone. We can right wrongs and root out systemic racism in our country. We can confront the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity. We can protect our democracy by seeing each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans. For the world to see, with unity we can lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
As we start the hard work to be done, I pray this moment gives us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away. And, as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.
On this Inauguration Day I swear an oath to be a President for all Americans and ask every American to join me in this cause of democracy. May this be the story that unites us as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2021, a National Day of Unity and call upon the people of our Nation to join together and write the next story of our democracy –- an American story of decency and dignity, of love and of healing, and of greatness and of goodness.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
After listing difficulties faced by the nation including the pandemic, an economic crisis, racial injustice, the climate crisis and internal threats to the country’s democracy, Biden asked rhetorically if Americans were up for the challenge.
‘Will we meet the moment like our forebears have?’ he asked.
‘I believe we must and I believe we will. You, the American people are the reason why I have never been more optimistic about America that I am this very day.’
‘There isn’t anything we can’t do, if we do it together,’ he added. ‘So thank you for this honor, I will give my all to you.’
In her first address as the nation’s Vice President, meanwhile, Kamala Harris talked about the power of ‘American Aspiration’.
With the Washington Monument lit up behind her, Harris called on Americans to remember ‘we are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up’.
She cast her ascension as the first female vice president as a demonstration of the nation’s character.
‘In many this moment embodies our character as a nation. It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times.
‘We, not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon, and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious.
‘We are undaunted, in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up. This is American aspiration,’ she said.
Harris, the first ever vice president of color, gave nod to the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, who she credited for seeing ‘a better future and built it with land grant colleges, and the transcontinental railroad.’
She also lauded the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr and his tireless efforts to fight for racial and economic justice.
‘A great experiment, takes great determination. The will to do the work and then the wisdom to keep refining, keep tinkering, keep perfecting. The same and determination is being realized in America today,’ she said.
Turning to current times, Harris praised American scientists, parents and teachers who are persevering through the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged people to ‘see beyond crises.’
‘I see it in the scientists who are transforming the future, I see it in the parents who are nurturing generations to come and in the innovators, the educators, in everyone, everywhere who are nurses and educators, everyone everywhere who is building a better life for themselves, their families and their communities,’ Harris continued.
‘This too is American aspiration. this is what President Joe Biden has called upon us to summon now.
‘The courage to see beyond crisis, to do what is hard, to do what is good, to unite, to believe in ourselves, believe in our country, believe in what we can do together.’
The Celebrating America event began at 8.30pm, and was hosted at the Lincoln Memorial by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, in addition to Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington.
A display of fireworks over Washington, DC, closed out today’s Inauguration Day events, with Joe and Jill watching on from the White House balcony
Fireworks burst over the Washington Monument during the ‘Celebrating America’ event after the inauguration of Joe Biden
Hanks opened the show by saying: ‘In the last few weeks, in the last few years, we’ve witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land. But tonight we ponder the United States of America.
‘The practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union.
‘To some, a presidential inauguration is a tradition, an act that marks the commitment of a new four-year term. Yet, in truth, Inauguration Day is more than the swearing in of the next national leaders. This day is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal.’
Rock legend Bruce Springsteen performed ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ as he stood alone with his guitar in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
‘I will provide for you, and I´ll stand by your side. You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride,’ Springsteen crooned.
Other musical contributions included live performances from Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, and John Legend, who sang a rendition of ‘Feeling Good’.
Biden was seen dancing along with his grandson as Demi Lovato covered Bill Wither’s ‘Lovely Day’
Host Tom Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, introduced the show by saying, ‘In the last few weeks, in the last few years, we’ve witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land. But tonight we ponder the United States of America’
Springsteen said, ‘Good evening, America,’ to open the 90-minute special airing across several networks on Wednesday night in place of the usual official inaugural balls
Other musical contributions throughout the show included live performances from Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake (left) and Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi (right), and John Legend, who sang a rendition of ‘Feeling Good’.
Katy Perry sand her hit-single Firework as a procession of fire works lit up the skies above Washing DC on Wednesday