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When he took the oath of office Wednesday, Joseph R. Biden became the 46th president of the United States of America. President Biden entered the race for the White House endeavoring to restore the “soul” of America, and he now has his work cut out for him.

For those weary from four years of chaotic leadership, including a year of crushing hardship amid a deadly pandemic, it’s important to remember that Inauguration Day is not a cleansing panacea for all that ails America — but it is an important, if preliminary, step in the right direction. A new commander in chief cannot simply will away our tallest challenges, from coronavirus and economic downturn to climate crisis and the scourge of bigotry. What our chief executive can do, though, is set the tone, point to the path and, hopefully, help lead us to a stronger and more perfect union.

President Biden has promised to “build back better,” and his early policy goals offer promising first steps to getting America back on track. His proposed $1.9 trillion economic relief bill would include cash payments to American families, state and local government aid and targeted COVID funding to boost vaccination plans, testing and in-person schooling plans. Additionally, his green energy proposal would invest $2 trillion to transform our infrastructure, aggressively address climate change and put millions of Americans back to work with well-paying jobs.

President Biden has pledged to meet the trying moment the U.S. now faces. The proposals for his first 100 days in office certainly appear to reflect that effort, though their ambitious goals will test Mr. Biden’s touted congressional negotiation skills, as the Democrats will hold a slim but not filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And beyond the nuts and bolts of policy, there is still the matter of the tested and tattered soul of the nation that President Biden hopes to rejuvenate — far easier said than done considering the stark division facing the American body politic. The need for healing stems from President Biden’s predecessor, who exploited the division among us by barking from the bully pulpit with fear-mongering, race-baiting and unparalleled mendacity. It’s now up to the incoming president to help lift America from the divisive din by setting a tone that favors truthfulness, transparency, decency, compassion and a humble duty to our most cherished values and norms that have been so thoroughly threatened.

Facing down the coronavirus, alleviating the economic damage, meaningfully addressing and combating systemic racism, rebuilding international bridges — the way forward for the Biden administration and our beleaguered country is a difficult one. It will require the cumulative strength of not just America’s leaders but its people to reach the light at the end of this tunnel.

Considering the loftiness of President Biden’s policy goals, he’s unlikely to get everything legislatively he wants — something he undoubtedly knows that his supporters should as well. But if the new occupant of the Oval Office can begin the process of repairing America’s promise to its people and relationships with the world, then great things are possible. That hope, tempered by the tribulations we’ve collectively endured, will carry America into a new day.


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