(CNN)President Joe Biden conjured a vision of Americans coming back together and reclaiming their freedom from the worst ravages of the pandemic as a nation long silenced by sickness and death exploded back to life on the Fourth of July.
But the President was unable to declare full independence from the virus, as he had long hoped, with a more infectious Delta variant bearing down on those Americans still skeptical of the vaccines that promise full national restoration.
Some 67.1% of adults had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by July 4, just short of his original target of 70%, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on Sunday.
“Over the past year, we’ve lived through some of our darkest days,” Biden said in a fiery speech at a packed, mask-free Independence Day party at the White House on a balmy Sunday evening.
“Now I truly believe — I give you my word as a Biden — I truly believe we’re about to see our brightest future,” Biden said.
Despite looming concerns over infection spikes among unvaccinated Americans in months to come, there was a heady mood of liberation from coast to coast, as excited crowds that would have been unthinkable only weeks ago gathered to watch the huge annual fireworks displays.
People packed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and the National Mall — deserted during Biden’s inaugural address that came at a time when daily Covid cases averaged nearly 200,000 — was jammed with families. A huge party unfolded in the first moment of national shared experience and catharsis since Covid-19 reached US shores.
As the sun set in New York City, pleasure boats thronged the harbor. At a Fort Lauderdale party, the Beach Boys with John Stamos recalled golden memories of pre-pandemic summers as they wished “they all could be California girls” before a close quarters crowd. In cities including Nashville and Philadelphia, live bands jammed before mass audiences.
Spectacular fireworks displays erupted over Washington and Manhattan after 9 p.m. ET, and as skies darkened across the continent, they trigged a chain reaction as fireworks burst in air in red, white and blue. The finale of the Washington display ended in a deafening chorus of detonations and pyrotechnics that painted the sky over the nation’s capital a shade of deep, fiery red.
Biden’s speech was simultaneously a patriotic pep talk, a rallying cry for the elusive national unity on which he anchored his presidency, a moment of mourning for 600,000 Americans lost to Covid-19 and a public service announcement for the power of vaccines.
There was also a clear sense that the President was banking political capital after promising to wrest control of the pandemic after former President Donald Trump’s neglect. Nearly four decades after President Ronald Reagan proclaimed his “Morning again in America” moment, Biden effectively did the same.
“Just think back to where this nation was a year ago. Think back to where you were a year ago,” Biden said. “Think about how far we have come. From silent streets to crowded parades lined with people waving American flags … (From) families pressing hands against a window to grandparents hugging their grandchildren once again.”
Yet the specter of mutating virus that has an al
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