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Opinion | After Biden’s Inauguration: Pride and Relief

To the Editor:

Re “‘Democracy Has Prevailed’: Biden Vows to Mend Nation” (front page, Jan. 21):

President Biden’s inauguration brought to mind Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, which I watched at a reception in Moscow. The person standing next to me, a Russian general, was staring wistfully at the television screen. “This is what we need,” he said.

Seventeen months earlier, Boris Yeltsin had resisted a coup attempt from atop a tank, so it was no wonder the general envied the predictable ordinariness of our presidential transitions. Through the general’s eyes I saw how extraordinary our ordinariness really was, and I was proud.

President Biden’s inauguration also made me proud. Proud that the ceremony was taking place on schedule, unmoved by the shameful assault on our Capitol. Proud that presidential pageantry stressed inclusivity, after four years of self-aggrandizement.

We have enormous challenges, but if my Russian general had watched this inauguration, I believe he would have been encouraged by our renewed appreciation of American democracy and the rituals that celebrate it. I know I am.

Robert E. McCarthy
Arlington, Va.
The writer is a former Foreign Service officer.

To the Editor:

It was the best inauguration ever. Mostly because of its diversity — not just racial and ethnic diversity, but diversity of every kind.

A Black female fire captain leading the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language. A nurse singing “Amazing Grace” in her work clothes at the Covid memorial the night before. A Capitol Police hero in a plain brown coat escorting the vice president. A mall empty of people and yet full of their presence.

Three former presidents standing together in support. One absent president acknowledged, and another one ignored. Lady Gaga’s dress, Bernie Sanders’s mittens, Karen Pence’s pearls. A president who said “we” so many times more than he said “I.”

Opinion Debate
What should the Biden administration and a Democratic-controlled Congress prioritize?

  • Ezra Klein, Opinion columnist, argues that Biden and the Democrats must act boldly, and clearly, to help Americans in need: “You don’t get re-elected for things voters don’t know you did.”
  • Claudia Sahm, an economist, writes that Biden’s stimulus plans should be open-ended and that Americans “deserve the peace of mind of knowing that relief will continue as long as they need it.”
  • Ross Douthat, Opinion columnist, argues that rather than desiring large-scale change from President Biden, “a meaningful majority of Americans may be satisfied with recovery, normalcy, a phase of decadence that feels depressing but not dire.”
  • Adam Jentleson writes that the president and Senate Democrats must do away with the filibuster or risk endless gridlock: “We can’t afford for the Senate to remain the place where good ideas go to die.”
  • Times Readers shared their hopes for the next four years and the Biden administration.

I am joyful and hopeful today.

Judith Eadson
Pitman, N.J.

To the Editor:

The long nightmare is over! A new day has begun!

I found Wednesday very emotional as I watched the inauguration and saw President Biden deliver an excellent speech and history made with Kamala Harris becoming vice president. Joe Biden was not my first choice for the presidency, but I know now that he is the right person for this time. Just hearing him speak made me feel calmer, made me feel that we will overcome whatever is thrown our way.

So let’s all come together.

Jennifer Dorn
New York

To the Editor:

I am dismayed by the media’s rehabilitation of former Vice President Mike Pence in the wake of his belated repudiation of Donald Trump after the Capitol insurrection. It should never be forgotten that Mr. Pence was one of Mr. Trump’s chief enablers, and Mr. Pence’s symbolic act of decency and tradition in attending President Biden’s inauguration is made to seem more than it is when it stands in comparison to Mr. Trump’s disrespect and cowardice in not participating.

Most disturbing about the attempt to rehabilitate Mr. Pence’s image is that when he runs for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, as he can almost certainly be expected to do, I fear the fact of his simply doing the right thing in the last two weeks of his term will be used in an attempt to whitewash his four years of abject sycophancy to Mr. Trump. By his acquiescence, he is complicit in the worst excesses of the Trump administration.

Jay Feldman
Davis, Calif.

To the Editor:

President Biden’s inaugural speech was boring. And boring never sounded so good!

Hariprasad Subramaniyan
O’Fallon, Mo.

To the Editor:

When he assumed leadership of Britain at a critical hour, Winston Churchill was, for that time, an elderly man of 65 who had spent 40 years in government. “All my past life,” he later wrote, “had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”

In Joe Biden we have a president who can make that claim. President Biden entered the Senate 48 years ago, and for eight of the last 12 years served as vice president. Like Churchill, he was not most people’s first choice and was several times passed over. But his temperament and his experience are just what we need at this critical hour.

Knowing that Joe Biden is at the helm is a balm to this anxious mind.

Joseph L. Hern
Quincy, Mass.

To the Editor:

How extraordinary! Just saying “President Biden” three times seems to lower my blood pressure.

Steven Cohen
New York

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