Emerging from the White House to "Hail to the Chief," President Joe Biden addressed the largest event of his administration to declare: "All across this nation we can say America is coming back together."
"This year, the Fourth of July is a day of special celebration. For we are emerging from the darkness of years. A year of pandemic and isolation. A year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss. Just think back to where this nation was a year ago. Think back to where you were a year ago. And think about how far we've come," Biden said to applause from the crowd of 1,000 military families and essential workers.
Throughout his remarks, Biden sought to draw a sharp contrast between where the country was a year ago and today, praising the American people for helping to get the virus under control by rolling up their sleeves to get their vaccination shots -- though the nation missed his goal of having 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
While Biden used soaring rhetoric to celebrate the country's success so far, he stressed the fight is not over, referencing the delta variants of the virus that have concerned medical experts, as cases spike in areas with low vaccination rates.
"Thanks to our heroic vaccine effort, we've gained the upper hand against this virus. We can live our lives, our kids can go back to school, our economy is roaring back. Don't get me wrong -- COVID-19 has not been vanquished. We all know powerful variants have emerged like the delta variant," Biden said.
"But the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated. My fellow Americans, it's the most patriotic thing you can do. So please, if you haven't gotten vaccinated. Do it. Do it now. For yourself, for your loved ones, for your community, and for your country. You know, that is how we'll stay ahead of these variants and protect the hard-won progress we've made."
"We never again want to be where we were a year ago today," he added, with a wagging finger. "So today, while the virus hasn't been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives. It no longer paralyzes our nation. And it is within our power to make sure it never does again."
Pulling a card from his pocket, Biden struck a somber tone as he read the total number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths to date: 603,018 people.
"Each of them meant the world to someone they left behind. And those of you who have been through all this, know that to heal, you have to remember. We have to remember them. And we will. We commit to always remember them. That's what we'll do."
While partisan divisions have also caused a split in views on vaccinations, Biden sought to pitch a message of unity, urging the country to come together to continue to get a handle on the virus and get back on track.
"You know, history tells us, when we stand together, when we unite in common cause, when we see ourselves not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, then there is simply no limit to what we can achieve. None. Today we see the results of the unity of purpose. The unity of purpose we are forging -- we're our nation," Biden said.
"For together we're beating the virus," he continued. "Together we're breathing life into our economy. Together we will rescue our people from division and despair. But together we must do it. Over the past year, we've lived through some of our darkest days. Now I truly believe, I give my word, we are about to see our bright future."
Earlier Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff paid a visit to some firefighters in Los Angeles, along with Congressman Ted Lieu and his wife, Betty.
"Let's take a minute to also reflect on what you all did during that last year and a half to keep pushing and you didn't stop. You didn't have the ability to stay at home. You were there to serve. So it's an important day to also reflect on -- on the good, right? And the fight, and our commitment to it. So thank you all," she said.
The group visited Los Angeles Fire Department Station 19 in Brentwood, California, and both Harris and Emhoff noted that it is their neighborhood station.
"It's personal to us," Emhoff said. "This is our neighborhood station, so thank you for everything you do for our neighborhood, our neighbors. I know we've been evacuated a couple of times, and you guys were ready to protect our family. And we really appreciate it."