President Biden on Sunday celebrated the United States's near "independence from" the coronavirus, stressing unity against it and other challenges on his first Fourth of July as president.
“Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together,” Biden said in his address. “Two hundred and forty-five years ago we declared independence from a distant king. Today, we're closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over. We’ve got a lot more work to do."
But, he added, "it no longer paralyzes our nation, and it is within our power to make sure it never does again."
Biden made his Independence Day remarks before a crowd of military families and front-line workers at the White House’s holiday barbecue.
Though his administration fell short of its goal of having 70 percent of Americans receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by July 4, the president emphasized how far the country has come during the pandemic, saying now people can return back to work, kids are going back to school and the economy is on the rise.
Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults have received at least one does of the vaccine, according to government data, while 58 percent are fully vaccinated.
This Fourth of July, America is back. Tune in as I deliver remarks at our White House Fourth of July BBQ with essential workers and military families. https://t.co/QwfdywJRgU— President Biden (@POTUS) July 4, 2021
Echoing points he stressed on the campaign trail last year and in his first address to a joint session of Congress, Biden repeatedly emphasized unity, saying that when Americans put aside their differences, there is nothing they cannot overcome.
"Together we’re beating the virus," he said. "Together we are breathing life into our economy. Together we’ll rescue our people from division and despair. But together we must do it."
His remarks came amid growing concern over the rise of highly contagious coronavirus variants in the face of lingering vaccine hesitancy. As of last week, the delta variant has been detected in all 50 states.
Preliminary studies have indicated that existing vaccines are useful against coronavirus variants, and Biden implored those who haven't done so to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"My fellow Americans, it is the most patriotic thing you can do. So please, if you have not gotten vaccinated, do it now. Do it for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities," he said.
"The best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated," Biden added.
Beyond the pandemic, Biden alluded to issues Americans face ranging from climate change to the fight for transgender rights, giving a pointed nod to voter rights, which Democrats say are under assault in multiple states across the country.
"Each day we're reminded there's nothing guaranteed about our democracy. We have to fight for it," he said, adding that "the right to vote and have that vote counted" is sacred.