Many Americans living in Nova Scotia breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday afternoon, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris swore oaths of office, becoming the 46th president and vice-president of the United States, respectively.
After a tumultuous year that included a global pandemic, deadly riots on the U.S. Capitol, and a reckoning on race and racial injustice, they said they welcomed the new administration and the end of President Donald Trump’s rule.
“I am feeling ecstatic. It is finally a relief and a blessing to actually have a president in the office of the president,” said Rhonda Britton, the Florida-born pastor for the New Horizons Baptist Church in Halifax.
“I think that (Biden) can bring a level of calm and this whole overarching theme of unity and reconciliation. Those things can be accomplished.”
In his inauguration speech, Biden emphasized the importance of national unity, public service and racial equity. He promised to turn the “dream of justice for all” into a reality, and encouraged Americans to do their part to end the “uncivil war” in which the country has engaged.
Halifax resident Evelyn White, a prominent Chicago-born author and journalist, said she was thrilled to see so many women and people of colour involved in the ceremony, and looks forward to seeing the president and vice-president end the “assault” of the past four years.
“It will take quite a while I think for people to recover, if ever, from that assault,” White said.
“But hope springs eternal, joy cometh in the morning as Jessie Jackson used to say, so I’m hopeful.”
In the next two weeks, Biden is expected to sign a flurry of executive orders, reversing some of Trump’s more controversial policies, and introducing new ones, including mandatory face masks on federal grounds.
With the COVID-19 death toll in America now at 400,000 and counting, he’s set a goal of delivering 100,000 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.
It’s action that Halifax resident Jerry Wurnig — originally from Arizona — has longed to see for many months.
“The Trump administration underperformed even their modest attempt at vaccine rollout,” he told Global News.
“To me, that’s the number one thing I want to see (is to get) COVID under control, and once COVID’s under control we can start to talk about how we solve some of these big-scale problems, like climate change.”
Trump did not participate in the transition of power on Wednesday, having left for Florida before the inauguration ceremony began.
Richard Bell, a resident of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, worked on the Capitol for several Senate elections and on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He said he’s “extremely happy” to see the back of the polarizing Republican, who was impeached an unprecedented two times.
“Looking at the Capitol today, I just heard there were more troops on the street in D.C. today than are in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Bell said.
“So in a way, it’s sort of a backhanded tribute to how far off the course Trump has taken the country.”
Global faith has been shaken in the United States, said Robert Huish, associate professor of international development studies at Dalhousie University.
Trump “unbalanced all of America’s relations” both with enemies and allies, he explained, and Biden will have the enormous task of repairing broken foreign policy and domestic tensions.
“Already in his first few hours of being president, I’d argued he’s done more in the moral health of America than President Trump did in his entire term in office,” he said, adding that countries around the world will be watching Biden’s first few weeks in office closely.
“This is an incredible moment to show that the system itself could have potential to be more participatory and more inclusive, and to listen to the changing and diverse nature that is the United States.”
Biden’s inauguration ceremony wrapped up Wednesday afternoon without serious disruption, although a handful of arrests were made. More than 25,000 National Guard troops were deployed in the Capitol area.