‘We have an opportunity to defeat despair’: Biden pledges to govern for all Americans

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris raise their hands in triumph amid the crowd's cheers.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris raise their hands in triumph amid the crowd's cheers. Photo: AP

As jubilant crowds poured into the streets across America, a humble Joe Biden has officially claimed the presidency in an emotional address that saw him pledge “to be a president who seeks to unify, not divide”.

Speaking in Wilmington in his home state of Maryland before an audience overflowing with the joy of a hard-fought victory, the president-elect vowed to fight for causes trashed over the previous four years by the Trump administration.

“The people of this nation have spoken. They delivered us a clear victory.

“We won with more votes than ever delivered in this nation — 74 million!” he said to rapturous cheers.

Conspicuously absent from his address was any mention of Donald Trump, who continues to reject the Biden victory and swears pending court cases will overturn the result.

Biden supporters outside the state capitol denounce any re-counting of Pennsylvanian votes. Photo: AP

“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed,” Mr Trump said in a statement issued as his successor called for cooler heads and tempers.

While Mr Trump continued to beat the war drums, Mr Biden appealed to “the better angels” of the American character.

“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric … to be Americans again,” Mr Biden said. “This is the time to heal America.

“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation.

“We are the United States of America … and there’s nothing we can’t do if we do it together.”

Biden supporters ignore the evening chill in Wilmington. Photo: AP

Among his priorities, controlling the COVID-19 pandemic topped the list

But what Mr Biden stressed most of all was the need to close the rifts that have seen America more divided than at any time since the Civil War 160 years ago.

“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.”

Mr Biden was preceded to the microphone by vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who was met with a cacophany of cheers and blaring car horns.

“America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it,” said Ms Harris, who will become the first woman ever to serve as vice-president and only the second person of colour in the White House.

“While I will be the first woman in this office I will not be the last.”

Topics: Joe Biden
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