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Restoring unity will take us all

Wednesday’s inauguration brought sighs of relief heard around the globe.

Two weeks after an armed insurrection, putting a close to the most tumultuous presidency in United States history, Joe Biden placed his hand on a 5-inch-thick Bible and took the oath of office. President Biden inherits a surging pandemic, stumbling economy and deeply divided country. Issues like climate change, racial injustice, social inequity, white nationalism and political extremism are fires that must be tended before they rage out of control.

He and Vice President Kamala Harris have hit the ground running with actions on many of the pressing challenges. They appear to be putting capable, experienced leaders in place to steady America’s course for the rough seas ahead. It is comforting to see the rollout of a coordinated national plan to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Biden’s call for unity during his inaugural address is an ideal we hope all Americans embrace. So many of our wounds have been self-inflicted of late. Spurred by messages of hate and intolerance, we have brothers fighting brothers and neighbors going to war over the color their team wears.

The new president may not get all 323 million of us Americans to sit in a circle and sing “Kumbaya,” but just lowering the national temperature would be a wonderful start.

The former presidents and first ladies in attendance seemed to particularly relish Wednesday’s ceremonies. Their joy was palpable, as was the genuine affection and respect they have for each other. Considering how hard those men and women worked to protect and serve America, the last four norm-smashing years must have been rough.

We have a farmer friend on the Mainland who reached out Wednesday to share the relief she felt after the inauguration. Her northwest Pennsylvania community was visited by both candidates during the election and remains a heated political battleground. “Not my president” banners hang from neighbors’ barns and are posted on friends’ Facebook pages. There is an angriness in the air she prays will dissipate soon.

Once again, we are reminded how fortunate it is to live in Hawaii where acceptance and tolerance are woven into the fabric of the culture.

For many, the last four years was like watching teenage neighbors throw a raging keg party while their parents were away. It was often unpredictable and unsettling, growing ever louder as things careened out of control. On Wednesday, the adults were back in the house, determined to set things to rights.

Joining the new and former presidents on the grandstand were a host of government leaders, including members of the Supreme Court, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and longtime Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If Joe Biden is going to succeed in bringing unity back to this country, he is going to need their help. He is also going to need ours.

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