Carrying on a theme he has recently struck repeatedly, President Joe Biden warned about the threats facing democracy at home and abroad during remarks honoring fallen veterans on Memorial Day.
Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery, Biden said “democracy itself” is in “peril” in the U.S. and around the world.
“What we do now” and “how we honor the memory of the fallen,” Biden said, will determine whether democracy can endure.
Repeating one of his go-to campaign lines, Biden claimed the battle for the “soul of America” is “animated by the perennial battle between our worst instincts—which we’ve seen of late—and our better angels.”
Democracy flourishes when there is a free press, all citizens have access to vote, and there are equal rights for everyone, Biden said.
Before he delivered remarks, a visibly emotional Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, lay a wreath at the tomb of Unknown Soldier.
“Democracy is more than a form of government,” Biden said. “It’s a way of being. It’s a way of seeing the world. Democracy means the rule of the people. The rule of the people, not the rule of monarchs. Not the rule of the monied. Not the rule of the mighty.”
Since the start of his presidential campaign, Biden has said his goal is to unify the nation and restore America’s position as the beacon of democracy for the world. Last week, Biden claimed the nation’s rising vaccination rate was evidence he was beginning to fulfill his promise. “When I ran for office I said I wanted to do three things, one of which was to unite the country,” Biden said Friday during a speech in Virginia. “It’s difficult. But this is the first real evidence that we’re able to do it.”
Biden has occasionally lobbed criticism at his predecessor as he speaks about the threats to democracy. In the first interview after his Inauguration which was published last week, Biden told The Atlantic he saw fighting for the “soul of America” as the perfect counter to threat that he believed was posed by former President Donald Trump. Trump “didn’t understand anything about who we are as a people,” Biden said. “His transparent selfishness, his willingness to say anything, his overwhelming appeal to prejudice and division. He didn’t have any social redeeming value, as far as I can see.”
On Sunday, Biden spoke to a crowd of Gold Star families at the War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware. He also attended a service for his son, Beau Biden, a veteran who died of brain cancer in 2015.