Biden tears up as he departs Delaware for the White HouseJanuary 19, 2021
President-elect Joe Biden called for national healing at a vigil for victims of the coronavirus on Tuesday, spending the eve of his inauguration by honoring the thousands of Americans who have died during the pandemic.
“To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today,” Biden said from the Lincoln Memorial. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all whom we lost.”
Speaking from an emptied National Mall with 400 dimmed lights lining the Reflecting Pool, Biden attended an event that highlighted the pressing challenges he’ll face after he’s sworn in on Wednesday. Much of downtown D.C., including the National Mall, was shut off from the public following the deadly attack on Capitol Hill by President Donald Trump’s supporters two weeks ago, and the country’s death toll from coronavirus surpassed 400,000 earlier on Tuesday.
The memorial service prefaced an inauguration unlike any other in the country’s history, with Trump opting to spend the transition away from Washington and continuing to not directly acknowledge his electoral defeat.
Biden was joined at the vigil by future first lady Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and future second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., also spoke, and Yolanda Adams sang a rendition of “Hallelujah.” Lori Marie Key, a Michigan nurse, sang “Amazing Grace.”
After his remarks, Biden settled at Blair House, across from the White House, where presidents-elect traditionally spend the night before their inaugurations.
Biden’s appearance at the Lincoln Memorial was his second public appearance of an emotional day. He started tearing up on Tuesday afternoon as he left Delaware on his final trip to Washington before he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
“I know these are dark times, but there’s always light,” Biden said in his home state.
He appeared to get choked up multiple times during his brief remarks at the National Guard headquarters in Delaware, which was named for his late son Beau. The president-elect flew to Washington after his initial plan to travel by train was nixed over security concerns.
“It’s kind of emotional for me,” Biden acknowledged at one point.
The president-elect’s display was a striking contrast to that of the man he is succeeding, Trump, who goes to great lengths to avoid projecting vulnerability in public.
Biden’s departure remarks — which lasted less than 10 minutes — were in many ways an ode to his adopted home state of Delaware, which sent him to the U.S. Senate for the first time nearly 48 years ago. The president-elect called the state a “place of hope and light and limitless possibilities” for him and his family.
Biden also said that when he dies, “Delaware will be written on my heart,” cribbing from what James Joyce once said of Dublin.
The president-elect also hearkened back to 12 years prior when then-President-elect Barack Obama greeted him on the train platform in Washington, D.C., before they were sworn in in January 2009, and said he was on his way to “meet a Black woman of South Asian descent,” Kamala Harris, on the eve of their inauguration.
When Biden touched down Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday afternoon, the nation’s capital was under an extraordinary level of security given the violent insurrection that overtook Congress earlier this month.
More than 25,000 National Guard members have been authorized to help secure the area in the days surrounding the inauguration. And earlier on Tuesday, the National Guard announced that two Guardsmen were pulled from the security mission because of suspected ties to right-wing militia groups.
Officials have expressed concern about the risk of an “insider threat” to Biden or others during the inauguration, and are closely vetting those who are tasked with protecting the capital.