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6 highlights from President Joe Biden’s first speech to Congress

President Joe Biden delivered his first speech before a joint session of Congress. Here are some takeaways

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Associated Press

President Joe Biden delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, sharing a video of America’s future — one the country will experience once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

Biden delivered the speech just days before he will reach his 100th day in office. Biden entered the White House amid surging COVID-19 case numbers and a struggling economy. Now, the vaccine rollout has begun to combat the novel coronavirus in a major way and has led to a rebound in the economy.

We watched the nearly two-hour speech on Wednesday night. Here’s a breakdown of what Biden said on a number of topics — a good roundup of what you might have missed if you decided not to watch the speech. You can read a full transcript of the speech at USA Today. Biden did change some wording throughout the night.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Pelosi make history

One of the biggest moments from Biden’s speech came before the speech started. Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made history as the first women to lead the Senate and the House during a presidential address, according to CNN.

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applaud as President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress.
Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud as President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Biden also honored Pelosi and Harris together.

  • “Thank you all — Madame Speaker, Madame Vice President,” he said. “From this podium, no president’s ever said those words — and it’s about time.”

So, yeah, that’s a pretty big deal to kick off the night.

Biden hyped up the United States and Democracy

Biden also ended his speech by promoting America and democracy.

  • “I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or more optimistic about America. Not because I’m president. Because of what’s happening with the American people.”
  • “We’ve stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy — of pandemic and pain — and ‘We the People’ did not flinch.”

He also pointed to the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6 as a sign that America has been under attack and that the soul of America needs to be restored.

  • The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive. It did, but the struggle is far from over. The question of whether our democracy will endure is both ancient and urgent.”

Biden suggested the U.S. is turning a corner on COVID-19

Biden talked about the novel coronavirus pandemic early in his speech. He mentioned a number of highlights about the vaccination of the country, listing a number of success points. He also called for the country to get vaccinated.

  • “After I promised we’d get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into people’s arms in 100 days — we will have provided over 220 million COVID shots in those 100 days. Thanks to all the help of all of you.”
  • “Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.”
  • “Today, 90% of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site. Everyone over the age of 16, everyone — is now eligible to get vaccinated right now, right away. Go get vaccinated, America.”

Yes, Biden called for Democrats and Republicans to work together

Biden said the country needs to work together for Democracy to function. He said working together will need to be the direction moving forward for the country to grow.

  • “And my fellow Americans, we must come together to heal the soul of this nation.”
  • “My fellow Americans, we have to come together. To rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. To root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system.”
  • “At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail. We came together. United. With light and hope, we summoned new strength and new resolve.”
President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks to a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Jonathan Ernst, Associated Press

Both Democrats and Republicans stood for Biden when he said the vast majority of police officers “wear their badge and serve their communities honorably.”

Biden said ‘white supremacy is terrorism’

Biden didn’t mince words when he addressed racism and white supremacy.

  • White supremacy is terrorism, and we’re not going to ignore that either.”

Biden then recently spoke about George Floyd, the unarmed Black man who died when officer Derek Chauvin — who recently was convicted on murder charges — knelt on his neck for over nine minutes.

  • “It was nearly a year ago before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. She said, ‘Daddy changed the world.’ After the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was if, if we have the courage to act.”
  • “We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America. Now is our opportunity to make real progress.”

Biden laid out a progressive platform for the economy

Biden spent a number of moments talking about the economy and jobs, highlighting his American Families Plan and the American Jobs Act. He said families need to keep their jobs and never have to worry about getting a paycheck.

  • Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class did. And unions built the middle class.”
  • “No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and a loved one — or a parent, spouse, or child.”

Biden then talked about the need to tax wealthy Americans opposed to the middle class.

  • “My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked.”
  • “I’m not looking to punish anybody. But I will not add an additional tax burden of the middle class of this country. They’re already paying enough.”
  • “For too long, we have failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis. Jobs. Jobs. For me, when I think about climate change, I think jobs.”