Hope, Healing And 'Better Angels': Biden Declares Victory And Vows Unity
Updated on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. ET
President-elect Joe Biden called for healing and cooperation in his victory speech on Saturday night, striking an optimistic tone about the prospects for a renewed and reunited America.
"I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home," Biden said at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. "It is the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now, the work of making that vision real — it's a task, thetask, of our times."
"I've long talked about the battle for the soul of America," he said. "It's time for our better angels to prevail."
"The people of this nation have spoken," Biden declared. "They've delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for 'we the people'."
But the former vice president, who pledged throughout his candidacy that he would represent the Americans who voted for Trump as well as those who voted for him, reiterated that promise in his address Saturday.
"Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now," he said, calling for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to cooperate with each other.
He also emphasized the vital importance of controlling the coronavirus, which is hitting new record levels, promising to bring experts onto his transition team beginning on Monday.
"I will spare no effort ... to turn around this pandemic," he said.
As a grim and difficult year draws to a close, Biden hearkened back to history with calls of American exceptionalism and laid out a hopeful vision for the future.
"Now together on eagle's wings, we embark on the work that God ... called us to do," Biden said, citing a hymn he said has brought comfort to his family.
"With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and each other, with love of country, a thirst for justice, let us be the nation that we know we can be – a nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed, the United States of America."
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — who is set to make history as the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to serve as vice president — spoke Saturday evening ahead of Biden's speech. She thanked election workers as well as the voters who participated in an election with record turnout.
"You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth," she said. "You chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States of America."
Harris celebrated the groundbreaking nature of her victory, too: "Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."
Like many of their campaign stops, the Wilmington event Saturday was held as a drive-in rally to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Masked supporters were cheering and waving flags from car hoods and pickup beds.
The former vice president's path to being elected the 46th president of the United States was a tumultuous one, marked by unprecedented campaign challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic and an incumbent opponent who declared a premature victory, baselessly attacked the integrity of the election and is now filing a flurry of last-minute legal actions in an attempt to deny Biden's victory.
Trump did not speak publicly on Saturday, but in written remarks, he refused to concede. In a statement, he vowed to take the election to the courts and falsely accused Biden of seeking to violate election laws. On Twitter, he inaccurately claimed victory and asserted that observers had not been allowed access to vote counts, which is false.
Some prominent Republicans have congratulated Biden and pushed back on Trump's false claims of fraud, while others have either remained silent or expressed support for Trump's legal challenges to the voting process.
Biden empathized with those who supported the outgoing president.
"To those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight," Biden said in his speech. "I've lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let's give each other a chance."
Read the transcript of Biden's prepared remarks below, as released by his campaign.
My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken.
They have delivered us a clear victory. A convincing victory.
A victory for "We the People."
We have won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of this nation — 74 million.
I am humbled by the trust and confidence you have placed in me.
I pledge to be a President who seeks not to divide, but to unify.
Who doesn't see Red and Blue states, but a United States.
And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.
For that is what America is about: The people.
And that is what our Administration will be about.
I sought this office to restore the soul of America.
To rebuild the backbone of the nation — the middle class.
To make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.
It is the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for this vision.
And now the work of making this vision real is the task of our time.
As I said many times before, I'm Jill's husband.
I would not be here without the love and tireless support of Jill, Hunter, Ashley, all of our grandchildren and their spouses, and all our family.
They are my heart.
Jill's a mom — a military mom — and an educator.
She has dedicated her life to education, but teaching isn't just what she does — it's who she is. For America's educators, this is a great day: You're going to have one of your own in the White House, and Jill is going to make a great First Lady.
And I will be honored to be serving with a fantastic vice president — Kamala Harris — who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country.
It's long overdue, and we're reminded tonight of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
Kamala, Doug — like it or not — you're family. You've become honorary Bidens and there's no way out.
To all those who volunteered, worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local election officials — you deserve a special thanks from this nation.
To my campaign team, and all the volunteers, to all those who gave so much of themselves to make this moment possible, I owe you everything.
And to all those who supported us: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran. I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history.
Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Progressives, moderates and conservatives.
Young and old.
Urban, suburban and rural.
Gay, straight, transgender.
White. Latino. Asian. Native American.
And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I'll have yours.
I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that's what I want the administration to look like.
And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight.
I've lost a couple of elections myself.
But now, let's give each other a chance.
It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric.
To lower the temperature.
To see each other again.
To listen to each other again.
To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy.
We are not enemies. We are Americans.
The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal.
This is the time to heal in America.
Now that the campaign is over — what is the people's will? What is our mandate?
I believe it is this: Americans have called on us to marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.
The battle to control the virus.
The battle to build prosperity.
The battle to secure your family's health care.
The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country.
The battle to save the climate.
The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody in this country a fair shot.
Our work begins with getting COVID under control.
We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life's most precious moments — hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us — until we get this virus under control.
On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as Transition Advisors to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20th, 2021.
That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern.
I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.
I ran as a proud Democrat. I will now be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn't vote for me — as those who did.
Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end — here and now.
The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control.
It's a decision. It's a choice we make.
And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate. And I believe that this is part of the mandate from the American people. They want us to cooperate.
That's the choice I'll make. And I call on the Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — to make that choice with me.
The American story is about the slow, yet steady widening of opportunity.
Make no mistake: Too many dreams have been deferred for too long.
We must make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.
America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we've made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be.
Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union.
FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal.
JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier.
And twelve years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, "Yes, we can."
We stand again at an inflection point.
We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose.
We can do it. I know we can.
I've long talked about the battle for the soul of America.
We must restore the soul of America.
Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses.
It is time for our better angels to prevail.
Tonight, the whole world is watching America. I believe at our best America is a beacon for the globe.
And we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
I've always believed we can define America in one word: Possibilities.
That in America everyone should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.
You see, I believe in the possibility of this country.
We're always looking ahead.
Ahead to an America that's freer and more just.
Ahead to an America that creates jobs with dignity and respect.
Ahead to an America that cures disease — like cancer and Alzheimers.
Ahead to an America that never leaves anyone behind.
Ahead to an America that never gives up, never gives in.
This is a great nation.
And we are a good people.
This is the United States of America.
And there has never been anything we haven't been able to do when we've done it together.
In the last days of the campaign, I've been thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and to my family, particularly my deceased son Beau. It captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America.
And I hope it can provide some comfort and solace to the more than 230,000 families who have lost a loved one to this terrible virus this year. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully this hymn gives you solace as well.
"And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand."
And now, together — on eagle's wings — we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do.
With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be.
A nation united.
A nation strengthened.
A nation healed.
The United States of America.
God bless you.
And may God protect our troops.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.