Around noon tomorrow, President-elect Biden will take the oath of office and become President Biden. Along with millions of others, I will breathe a sigh of relief.
Now, I’m skeptical of many of the policies that the Biden administration promises to pursue. Indeed, he’s not yet president and I’m already concerned about his proposed $1.9 trillion relief package. But living in a free nation means that sometimes you get your preferences and sometimes you don’t. That’s the deal.
Here’s what is more important: Tomorrow, a man who has long made it clear that he respects and understands the obligations of the presidency will take the office. Biden has exhibited maturity and grace in handling an unprecedented transition made perilous by his unpresidential predecessor. He has nominated officials who generally strike me as experienced, sober, and responsible figures. And he promises a much-needed change from the small, wretched man who has inhabited the White House these past four years.
Even in normal times, Inauguration Day is a time to set aside policy quarrels, honor our institutions, and be thankful for the democratic legacy we’ve inherited. This year, after the events of the past few weeks and months, it’s much more than that. It’s a reminder that our institutions are only as strong as we are, and that self-government rests on the civility and responsibility of the citizenry.
In the months to come, I suspect I’ll take issue with plenty of what President Biden’s administration seeks to do. But, as always, I will seek to do that with respect. I will do my best to presume that Biden and his appointees mean well, even on those occasions when I deem their actions misguided. I will say so when I think they are being hypocritical or deceptive, but I will try to do so without impugning their motives or their character.
It was President Lincoln, on the occasion of his first inauguration, 160 years ago, who allowed, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”
There will be plenty of fierce debates and bitter disagreements ahead. So be it. That’s a topic for another day. Today, I just want to take a moment to offer President-elect Biden my best wishes and hope that the next four years are blessed ones for him and our unkempt but dogged republic.
This post originally appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.