Despite efforts by President Donald Trump to prevent it, at noon ET on Jan. 20, 2021 President Joe Biden was officially sworn into office, putting a decisive end to Trump's four-year term. Watching the ceremony, it was clear the messaging from the commander-in-chief couldn't be more different than in was back in 2017, when Trump was sworn in. Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration speech versus Donald Trump’s 2017 speech is a clear rebuttal to Trump's "American Carnage" address, and reveals just how different the two men are.
President Biden's inauguration speech comes on the heels of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in which Trump supporters formed a riot in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. From the steps of the same place where the riot occurred, Biden still led with a message of hope, saying, "This is America's day. This is democracy's day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve."
In the middle of his speech, Biden continued with a positive message. "To restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words," Biden said. "It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy — unity," he continued, urging Americans to "see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors." Without unity, he emphasized, "there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage." He added, "Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America."
This comes in stark contrast to the speech given by former President Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017.
Almost as soon as Trump was sworn into office in 2017, he prompted his supporters to carry a deep, divisive mistrust for American democratic systems. "For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he stated in his infamous "American Carnage" inauguration speech. "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth ... this American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
Trump created divides as he spoke of American exceptionalism, saying, "We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength." In fact, Biden seemed to respond directly to the effect the Trump Administration had on international relations, saying, "Here’s my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested. And we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again."
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump also touted how he would "drain the swamp" in Washington to "make America great again" — a far cry from Biden's overarching message of unity.
Biden, in his speech, seemed to comment on Trump's tumultuous final days in office, stating, "There is truth, and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders ... to protect our nation, to defend the truth, and defeat the lies." Denouncing lies for political gain may seem like a relatively normal stance for Biden to take, but in the context of Trump's near constant barrage of baseless election fraud claims, Biden's comments were especially pointed.
Comparing the two, it's evident the tones of both speeches were completely opposite of one another, with Biden calling for unity while not ignoring the issues the country faces, while four year ago, Trump's speech was filled with line after line of everything he thought was wrong with America. You can watch both speeches in full, here and here.
Over the past four years, Trump's critics claim his divisive rhetoric has done irreparable damage to American democracy as a whole. So when it comes to uniting this country in the years to come, it seems like Biden has his work cut out for him. But looking at their respective inaugural addresses, it's clear Biden isn't taking Trump's fire and brimstone approach.