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Biden sends the right message in speech

Joe Biden (Official photo)

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy used his inaugural address as a time to ask Americans to look to the greater good.

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” Kennedy said in one of the most often quoted lines from any president’s inaugural address.

Will President Joe Biden’s similar appeal Wednesday be so fondly remembered decades from now? Only time will tell. No one knows how the Biden presidency will unfold over the next four years.

But Biden’s inaugural address struck the right note for a nation whose residents need to find ways to come together for self-governance rather than spend all of their time at each other’s throats.

“And so today, at this time, in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.

“Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

“My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And I believe America is so much better than this. …

“Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand. Like my dad, they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling, wondering, can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage? Thinking about their families. About what comes next. I promise you, I get it.

“But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you. Or worship the way you do. Or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, 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, as my mom would say, just for a moment stand in their shoes. Because here’s this thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days, you need a hand; there are other days when we’re called to lend a hand.

“That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future, and we can still disagree. My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other.”

How will the history books remember Biden’s inaugural address? No one knows. On his first day as president, however, he struck a note Americans of all political affiliations needed to hear.

Biden’s administration needs to live up to those ideals. So do all of us.

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