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Politics & Government

Hope, Healing And 'Better Angels': Biden Declares Victory And Vows Unity

Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, Doug Emhoff
Andrew Harnik/AP
From left, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage together, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

President-elect Joe Biden called for healing and cooperation in a 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," Biden said. "And 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 that vision. And now, the work of making that vision real — it's a task, the task, 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."

Biden did not directly acknowledge President Trump's false claims to have won the election.

"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 outgoing President 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, promising to bring experts on to 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 will 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."

Biden'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.

Trump on Saturday signaled that he has no intention of conceding the race.

Biden's triumph came in the midst of a series of last-minute legal actions taken by the Trump campaign, seeking to halt the processing and counting of mail-in ballots in some contentious swing states while pushing for a recount in others.

Beginning very early on in his bid for reelection, Trump and his surrogates sought to undermine the democratic process, falsely asserting that the increase in mail-in ballots, largely driven by the pandemic, would lead to widespread fraud. That stance primed the president's supporters for his eventual false claim that Democrats were trying to steal the election.

While Trump maintained his hold in Ohio and Florida, Biden brought the so-called "blue wall" states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin back to the Democrats' column.

Early data suggests about 160 million Americans voted this election, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a turnout-tracking database run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

Copyright 2020 NPR