Chief Justice John Roberts (R) administers the oath of office to Joe Biden as his wife, Jill Biden, holds the Bible on Wednesday afternoon. Pool Photo by Andrew Harnik/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the oath of office Wednesday on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, becoming the 46th president of the United States.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Biden, after which the Marine band performed "Hail to the Chief." The president took the oath on a 127-year-old family Bible held by first lady Jill Biden.
The Bidens were joined at the event by their children, Hunter Biden and Ashley Biden, and several grandchildren.
Joe Biden praised the tradition of the inaugural ceremonies and the peaceful transition of power, two weeks after an attack on the U.S. Capitol seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election.
"Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause -- the cause of democracy. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded," he said.
"We learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed."
The new president called on Americans to unite to overcome the nation's political discord, the ongoing pandemic that has killed some 400,000 people nationwide, racial injustice and climate change.
He invoked President Abraham Lincoln's quote when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863: "I never in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper," Lincoln said. "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
"My whole soul is in this," Biden said, "bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation and I ask every American to join me in this cause."
He said that under his administration, the United States will write "the next great chapter" in the country's history.
"Together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear, of unity, not division, of light, not darkness. A story of decent and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness," he said.
"May this be the story that guides us, the story that inspires us and the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice did not die on our watch, but thrived.
"So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country that we love with our hearts."
Biden's speech was followed by Garth Brooks' rendition of "Amazing Grace," a poem recited by Amanda Gorman, the nation's first youth poet laureate, and a benediction led by the Rev. Silvester Beaman.
Kamala Harris was the first to take the oath of office, delivered by Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She was the first woman and first woman of color in U.S. history to be sworn in as vice president.
Prior to the oaths, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt, heads of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, opened the ceremony. They were followed by an invocation by the Rev. Leo O'Donovan, the same priest who presided over the funeral of Joe Biden's son, Beau, in 2015.
Pop singer Lady Gaga performed the national anthem and Georgia firefighter Andrea Hall recited and signed the pledge of allegiance. Singer Jennifer Lopez followed Harris' oath with a medley of "This Land is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful."
The oath for all incoming vice presidents is different than the one the president takes. It's the same oath as those given to members of Congress and other federal officials.
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."
The presidential oath that Biden took was different, and a bit shorter.
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Every incoming president, with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt, has also added the words "so help me God" to the presidential oath.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were former presidents and first ladies Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who has not missed an inauguration since his own in January 1977, did not attend. Since the death of former President George H.W. Bush in 2018, Carter, 96, has been the oldest living former U.S. president.
Outgoing President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were not in attendance -- they departed the capital earlier in the morning -- but outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence were present on the West Front of the Capitol.
Donald Trump is the first president in more than 150 years to skip his successor's inauguration.
Though the inauguration was closed to the general public, thousands of flags filled the National Mall to represent those unable to attend the event.