For the sake of his nation and the world, the president-elect must hit the ground running and show that his ambitious ideas work

The inauguration of an American president is a solemn and symbolic occasion marking the peaceful, democratic transfer of power. The ritual is familiar and confidence-inspiring. Yet easy reassurance may be hard to find when Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday under heavy military guard, overlooking an empty mall, in the midst of Covid-19 and security lockdowns. Rarely has a presidency begun in such inauspicious circumstances. Taken together, the challenges he faces are unprecedented.

That said, all Americans, and a watching world, should be greatly encouraged by the dignified, conciliatory and statesmanlike way the president-elect has conducted himself so far. Few expected his candidacy to succeed a year ago. They said he was too old and out of touch. But it is hard to believe any of the other Democratic presidential hopefuls would have exerted the calm authority displayed by Biden during an extraordinarily difficult transition.

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