Draft for a President Joe Biden Inaugural Speech
(no one’s asking for it, but it felt good to imagine a new future)
My fellow Americans, I stand before you here on the steps of the nation’s capital in a ceremony that dates back to the founding of this nation — it is the full display of our values, and our commitment, that this country will always have a peaceful transition of power and will always, and forever, follow the will of the people. Not just in times of great uncertainty, but precisely because of them, does this tradition continue and always will. It’s the benchmark of our democracy, and you will never need to doubt it. Not now, not ever.
We stand here also making history, as 100 years ago the fight to give equality to the women of this nation was won, and we celebrate the first female Vice-President ever, my partner and trusted ally, Madam Vice-President Kamala Harris. While I’m humbled to be a part of that change, it’s taken a full century of sacrifice, determination and hard work for this moment. It should have been shorter, it should have been sooner, it should have been easier — but today it stands complete and our nation’s promise grows wider. There is nothing happier to me than the turn of this tide and the celebration of this milestone, and I look forward to the day when Madam Presidents join the ranks of American history books so often that they fail to be notable anymore. And it will come. And it will be great.
I would like to share with you my most personal self-reflections about where we are, right here and right now, and then challenge you to join me in a vision of where we must go next — for America is nothing without motion, it IS motion — a never ending energy of pushing forward together, rising up together, and leading together for all the world to see and admire.
When I began this journey into public service, I did so not with dreams for myself, but dreams for this country’s insatiable potential and a firm belief in our ties with each other. I have never doubted that sacred unity, and I have longed to lead you by example in bringing those values of tolerance, kindness, cooperation and honesty back to the front of our minds and the deepness of our hearts.
Our soul in America is so big it’s inspired the whole world, and touched people in every corner, every country, every language known to us across time and space and the difference of our backgrounds. The Soul of America is inspiration itself — that feeling of energy we get when we’re drawn to, and past, the edge of what’s possible. For our children, and for the generations of Americans we’ll never know who will live in the future, our responsibility now will become the shadow of the ideals we’ve laid out for them. So it is a challenge, and we need to see and accept that. Because as fundamentally united as I know us to be, we face the next four years with challenges as big as any we’ve ever known, and we have divisions we must heal in order to do that.
This journey demands that we speak honestly, and truthfully, with each other. It demands all of us, all of us, to consider and reflect on how that inspiration looks and feels differently for us, based many times on factors outside of our control, and influenced by history we can only study and read about. To ignore our differences is to abandon this challenge. So I ask you not to turn away from this moment, but instead to turn into it. To reach across the political aisles and achieve great things, we must begin by reaching out across the fences of our yards, the hallways of our offices, and any line that separates us. Whether it’s regions, or states, or counties, or townships — there is no division in our fundamental connection as citizens. There is no division in our fundamental connection as sisters and brothers of the human race. There is no division when it comes to tackling the greatest problems we’ve ever known — because to divide is not to conquer but BE conquered.
We know, and I know, that each of us is craving reconnection with our neighbors, and our coworkers, and our friends and family. We desperately all want to feel that love of country deep and unquestionably within our hearts. We all want the same outcomes of health, safety and prosperity for our lives and for our children, even when we don’t share the same motivations of why, or the same tactics of how to get there.
How will we unite without someone taking the first steps of forgiveness? How will we unite without someone making a compromise? How will we survive the Climate Crisis, without working together? There is no path forward without cooperation, and no future without a reset button on our desire to win. I did not run to be President for the glory of winning, I ran for President to destroy the culture of winning and I pledge you will see my efforts to cooperate with everyone, even those who did not vote for me.
I’ve said often I will be a President for all Americans, and I want to be held to that highest of standards every minute of every day of this administration. And I call on you, all of you, to help me in that quest by extending your hand in respect to one another, and raising your voices in defense of one another, and challenging our beliefs to extend to one another — because friends, this road to recovery cannot be led by government alone. It must be led by you, the people, first. And I not only believe in you, I’m counting on you, and the world itself is too.
We must begin by acknowledging the pain and suffering that is also a part of our history. We must try to understand the best and the worst of our history, and speak openly and bravely about our mistakes. The character of a nation is not shown in only its victories and accomplishments, but also in its honesty of admitting failures, and injustices, and prejudices.
The reflection of these mistakes does not damn us to commit them again, but empowers us to never allow them to define us. We are the motion. We are the energy. We are the change we have been waiting for, and right here and now these paths can be altered — with your help and your reflection and your voices.
I will not use today to discuss policy, or legislation, or tactics. I will not use this day to celebrate victory for myself, or for my future administration. I will not stand here today and promise you anything but this, I will love this country as you love it. I will strive to serve this country, as you have served it. I will sacrifice my all for this country, as our troops and civil servants have done for over 244 glorious years. And I will do it with respect and kindness for every woman, man and child lucky enough to call themselves the most revered of all nationalities, the most challenging of all citizenships, the most promising of all visions … Americans, one and all. Americans, then and now. Americans, my friends, Americans.
The sweetest bond the world has even known or created, and the most cherished of all words I know. May your own Gods bless you, may your families and friends thrive in the promise of our country, and may you be proud always of this, the greatest of human experiments ever known.
We have great work left to do, and the urgency is now. I’m humbled by this opportunity and I will use every resource at my disposal to protect and serve you, the people — to create a more perfect union, to establish justice and tranquility, and to promote and defend the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to all prosperity. We have nothing that separates us but what we allow to infect our common good. Nothing to divide us but the fear and rhetoric of the past.
Join me now and I promise you the next chapter in our history can indeed live up to that ideal each and every one of us carries in our hearts. May time and truth judge these efforts kindly and may Gods bless us, the United States of America.