Joe Biden has officially been inaugurated as the United States’ 46th president and, for many, January 20th symbolized a new beginning and necessary breath of fresh air. In his inaugural speech, President Biden likened his sentiment to former president Abraham Lincoln’s during the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, stating that “[his] whole soul is in this.” His words reflected a vision of unity––something this country is severely lacking––in order to combat issues such as disease, hopelessness, and violence.
As inspiring as the speech was, they are just empty words unless President Biden follows through with action. Thankfully, he seems eager to prove that he will stand by his promise to change the country for the better. In regards to the environment, within his first day, he halted the oil activity in the Arctic refuge, canceled the Keystone XL pipeline permit (an action that Native American groups, alongside environmentalists, have been advocating for years), and signed an order rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. His other first-day actions included extending student loan relief until September 30th, halting border wall construction, requiring masks on all federal property, and ending the Muslim travel ban. Looking forward, President Biden is expected to reverse Trump’s transgender military ban and has also pledged to sign the Equality Act in his first 100 days. We wait with bated breath––only time will tell if he intends to keep the momentum going.
The words of President Biden’s inaugural address weren’t the only ones to take note of. 23-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, recited an original poem titled “The Hill We Climb.” In the piece, Gorman referenced the trials and tribulations of this country and inspires all to have faith in the power of our democracy and to keep fighting to achieve a better future: “When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Yesterday was a day to celebrate the end of Trump’s four years in office, but we can’t rest on our laurels. This country’s issues, things like white supremacy and systemic inequalities, have long since existed before the Trump era and are not going to simply disappear just because there is a new president at the helm. Politicians are not saviors to be glorified, but leaders to be criticized. As people of this nation, our job is not over. As Gorman said in her poem, we have to be the light. We have to use our voices and fight for the changes we want to see. We have to hold President Biden and his administration accountable. The bar is on the floor, and we have to make sure that he does more than just step over it.