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'We've Got A Steep Road Ahead': Around The U.S., People Focus On The Future

President Biden delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 46th president.
Patrick Semansky
Pool/AFP via Getty Images
President Biden delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 46th president.

As President Joe Biden took the oath of office on Jan. 20 with his history-making vice president, Kamala Harris, people around the nation seemed cautiously optimistic.

Biden and Harris take office in the wake of an attempt by supporters of President Donald Trump to block Congress from certifying Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 that turned violent and deadly. In the two weeks since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, federal law enforcement officers have made arrests and charged people from across the nation for their role in the mob.

But on Wednesday as Biden told Americans that democracy had prevailed and called for a day of renewal and resolve, people around the country talked about a return to normalcy.

"I'm happy if he can do his agenda," Kay, a 57-year-old Trump supporter told KCUR reporter Frank Morris. "I mean, he seems like he's a level-headed guy and I hope that's the truth. I hope that that's what he follows. Cause then America would be better, but I'm worried that it's gonna swing too far left."

Kay, who lives in the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., and declined to share her last name, said she hoped that the Biden administration would reunite Americans.

"That's all I want. I want America first," she said. "I just want our country back to normal."

Sherry Webster, a 71-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., told Morris she thought the United States had turned a corner, but there was still a lot of work needed to bring the country together.

Kelsey Nix watches a television airing the Inauguration Day ceremony at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta.
Jessica McGowan / Getty Images
Getty Images
Kelsey Nix watches a television airing the Inauguration Day ceremony at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta.

"We've got a steep road ahead, [a] really steep road ahead, but I think Biden through all his tragedy in his life, has gained a lot of wisdom," Webster said. "I think he's somebody that can reach out to both sides and it really speaks to people. So I think we're headed in a good direction."

New York City was quiet during the inauguration Wednesday. Outside Trump Tower, where so many demonstrations over the past four years have been held, there were notably few people. One couple stopped by with their signs and hats from the first Women's March held here in 2017.

"It wasn't even a conscious feeling I woke up feeling energized. I feel the relief of not having to monitor second by second terrible decisions," 53-year-old Wendy Brandes told WNYC's Stephen Nessen.

Nearby, 21-year-old Diana Hernandez who works in Times Square said during Trump's term, tourists often felt emboldened to yell anti-immigrant slurs at her. She hopes that era is over now.

"I feel better... knowing that there's a better president and a female co-president in the White House," Hernandez said. "I have a good feeling for the future and the generation to come, because it shows that we have more opportunities for women."

Even some Trump supporters in the city said they would give Biden a chance to show what he can do to improve the country.

Reaction to the inauguration was also muted in more conservative parts of the country.

Jason Smith stood in line at a DMV in rural Southwest Idaho as Biden was sworn in. Not that he would have probably watched the new president's address anyway.

More than 60 court cases challenging the election results in swing states were thrown out because the Trump campaign couldn't provide evidence of widespread fraud, but Smith doesn't think Biden was fairly elected.

"We just want to be left alone in this country," Smith told NPR's Kirk Siegler. "Trump was our president and for most of us he still is our president, we still follow him."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.