‘Our fragile democracy has prevailed’: Berkeley community reacts to Joe Biden’s inauguration

Photo of Biden
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons
Many Berkeley community members were relieved at President Joe Biden's inauguration, with Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín saying in an email he was “pleased” to see Biden decide immediately to have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement, as well as block the Keystone XL pipeline. Several also cited their hope for progress in the country, especially given the violent riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Photo by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday was met with happiness and relief from Berkeley City Council and campus community members.

As issues such as a global pandemic, climate change and protests against racism spanned the year 2020, both city officials and those at UC Berkeley expressed hope that a new presidency would bring change for a divided nation. Campus sophomore Marissa Wong said she was happy because Biden’s inauguration and his speech appealed to both sides of the political spectrum.

“He’s showing America that we want to be a more unified nation. He’s appealing to Democrats and Republicans in just simply his inauguration speech,” Wong said. “That’s really great because as a divided nation, we can’t accomplish anything.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in an email he was “pleased” to see Biden decide immediately to have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Agreement, as well as block the Keystone XL pipeline.

Many people also talked about their hopes for Biden to quickly address issues highlighted in 2020.

Specifically, Biden has to prioritize addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy Dean Henry Brady.

“If the new administration can get COVID under control, Americans will see that democracy can solve problems and there is no need to resort to a strong man such as Donald Trump — in fact, they will see that the strong man failed where an administration committed to democracy succeeded,” Brady said in an email. “That will be an important lesson for America.”

Wong and Arreguín added that they want Biden to focus on topics such as racial inequality and immigration, subjects that were spotlighted during the previous term.

Berkeley community members also expressed pride to see Kamala Harris, who grew up in Berkeley, as the first female vice president of color.

“The inauguration has a special meaning for Berkeley, as Harris is a daughter of Berkeley, a city known for its progressive climate and inclusive community,” Arreguín said in an email. “I am proud to stand with our new Vice President, a leader who was shaped by and now embodies such values.”

City Councilmember Sophie Hahn added that Harris’ inauguration as vice president gave her and millions of women and children “overwhelming pride and joy.”

Most of all, though, people expressed hope for progress in the U.S., with some citing the violent riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Two weeks after facing one of its greatest tests, our fragile democracy has prevailed,” Hahn said. “Now we must begin the hard work of rebuilding our country and making the progress that the people of Berkeley need and deserve.”

Natalie Lu is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @natalie_c_lu.