WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden celebrated the nation’s 245th birthday on Sunday by opening the gates of the White House and calling on Americans to do their part to end the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all, reports Reuters.
“This year, the Fourth of July is a day of special celebration for we are emerging from the darkness of ... a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss,” Biden told a White House party opened to around 1,000 people, including military families and workers involved in the COVID-19 response.
The largest White House event since Biden took office in January included burgers and fireworks and was geared toward giving Americans something to celebrate as signs of normalcy have returned following a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
Still, the country has fallen short of Biden’s goal to have 70% of US adults get at least one vaccine shot by Sunday. The figure is around 67%, as some people have resisted getting inoculated, raising concerns among health officials as the more aggressive Delta variant threatens to generate another surge.
Biden mourned the people who died, praised Americans who aided in the country’s emergency response and said vaccines were the best defense against new variants of the virus.
“It’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” he said of getting vaccinated.
But his administration was also eager to celebrate what it sees as its signature accomplishment - restoring some normality for a country weary of pandemic restrictions and hardship, burdens that have eased but not disappeared with the widespread availability of inoculations.
Fencing surrounding the White House has been dramatically scaled back, and the streets filled on Sunday with people who snapped photographs of the president’s motorcade returning from a weekend trip to a Michigan cherry farm, the golf course and his Delaware family home.
Speaking to people on the south lawn of the White House who had shed their masks to eat watermelon slices and drink beer, Biden said the coronavirus “no longer paralyses our nation, and it’s in our power to make sure it never does again.” Six in 10 respondents in a new poll by The Washington Post and ABC News give Biden positive ratings for his handling of the pandemic.
Images of a crowded South Lawn were echoed in scenes of celebration across the country, with New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and other cities all putting on their own shows.
On the west coast, San Diego was readying to stage one of the largest July 4 parties in the country, with fireworks discharged from four barges around the bay.
California Senator Alex Padilla called Independence Day “a reminder of the American dream.”
“The best way to celebrate Independence Day is by taking a moment to acknowledge all the hard work that it took to get here,” he said.