Biden's Message to Incoming Administration Officials: Lead With 'Humility'

In something resembling his first staff meeting as president, Joe Biden told appointees to his new administration on Wednesday that he expects his national call for civility and unity applies to them, too: If any on his team shows disrespect to others, they'll be "fired on the spot."

Addressing the appointees via videoconference before their own swearing-in for positions not requiring Senate confirmation, Biden said: "We have such an awful lot to do but I know you. I know your heart, your dedication, your commitment to this nation. And I know you can do it. And we're going do it — by leading with one core America value: humility. And trust, collegiality, diversity, competency and family."

"But I'm not joking when I say this: If you're ever working with me, and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot," Biden said from the White House. "No if, ands, or buts."

Biden continued: "Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That's been missing in a big way the last four years."

Biden added that his administration would be judged by how well it "restores the integrity and competency in this government."

The president also thanked his new administration officials' families, recognizing the sacrifices they make when government service requires long hours.

After he won the presidency, a memo Biden wrote to his staff during his time as vice president resurfaced, shedding light on how Biden views the balance of work and family.

"I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone. I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work," reads the letter, dated Nov. 7, 2014. "Family obligations include but are not limited to family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, any religious ceremonies such as first communions and bar mitzvahs, graduations, and times of need such as illness or loss in the family. This is very important to me."

As Biden began his presidency on Wednesday, he kept memories of his own family — including his late son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015 — close at hand. 

Photographs of Biden sitting at the Oval Office Resolute Desk after his inauguration show him seated in front of several framed family photos, including a 2009 portrait of Beau.

Biden was sworn in as president shortly before noon Wednesday in a ceremony attended by a mix of A-list celebrities, past presidents, Supreme Court justices and congressional brass.

The swearing-ceremony was followed by a military salute, wreath-laying ceremony and parade in which he, accompanied by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, along with their children and grandchildren, abandoned their armored motorcade to walk the final stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House driveway.

Speaking to the socially-distanced assembly on the Capitol's west front after he was sworn in, Biden called for the country to "start afresh."

"America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge," he said in his inaugural address. "Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a case: a case of democracy. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded."

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