It was a historic moment for the nation, Jewish America and Georgia when former vice president Joe Biden greeted a deeply divided country Saturday night as the president-elect, pledging to bring about unity. Speaking from his hometown of Wilmington, Del., he was introduced by Kamala Harris, whose husband is Jewish and who will be the first female, African American and Asian American vice president.
Biden, who said he won the presidential election with the most votes cast in the nation’s history, said he would be a president for all Americans, not just Democrats or those who voted for him. “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continued his challenge of the election results and Stop the Steal rallies were held in Atlanta and around the country.
Biden’s televised statements Saturday night echoed some heard during the very contentious election campaign. “Folks, I’m a proud Democrat, but I will govern as a proud American. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did.”
Expected to be the oldest president, the longtime public servant also pledged to try to heal that divisiveness and begin addressing how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. He announced he would appoint a 12-member task force Monday that would start working on a COVID-19 plan starting Jan. 21.
In introducing Biden, Harris referred to him as “a healer, a unifier, a tested and steady hand.” She referenced the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis saying, “’Democracy is not a state; it is an act.’ What [Lewis] meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it, and that’s exactly what you did. … And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake and the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America.”
In terms of her history-making role, Harris said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Biden, who has been in public office for 47 years, reiterated that America is defined by its possibilities, and quoted twice during his speech from religious sources. From Ecclesiastics, he pulled out, “To everything there is a season, a time to build and a time to sow, a time to heal. … This is the time to heal America.”
Closer to home, Georgia helped decide the election outcome among a handful of states on which the results depended. Georgia, long a Republican stronghold, helped flip a very close presidential race that resulted in a Biden win. Which political party controls the Senate also may come down to two Georgia runoffs Jan. 5. Those races pit Republican Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish. Also facing a runoff is Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed by the governor earlier this year, and Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock. They are vying to fill the last part of a term vacated by retired Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Around Atlanta Saturday, there were celebrations and a rally protesting the results. In Midtown, people took to the streets to celebrate Biden’s victory Saturday night as they listened to his victory speech, drank and danced in a party atmosphere. Earlier Saturday at Piedmont Park, the scene was a bit less raucous, with families and a younger crowd celebrating, tooting car horns and waving Biden signs. Meanwhile a Stop the Steal rally took place at the Georgia Capitol to protest the election outcome.
Nathan Posner also contributed to this story.