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Clinching victory, President-elect Biden declares 'time to heal in America'

In his first speech as president-elect, Biden promised to be the leader of "the whole people" and outlined an agenda for his first term.

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation Saturday night for the first time after winning the White House, delivering a message of unity and healing to a bitterly divided nation.

Biden promised the captivated crowd of supporters at his campaign headquarters "to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify."

"To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans," Biden said.

"This is the time to heal in America," he added, amid a chorus of blaring car horns and screams.

Biden vowed to "work with all my heart for the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all people."

Biden spoke at a drive-in rally outside the Chase Center on the Riverfront, in Wilmington, Delaware, where 360 cars, the campaign said, had gathered. As Biden spoke, supporters of all ages sat atop their cars, inside their vehicles or beside them, yelling, screaming, cheering and pumping their car horns in enthusiastic support of the man on stage.

Biden repeatedly nodded to the history-making moment his victory ushered in, with his running mate, Kamala Harris, becoming the first-ever woman, Black American and South Asian American to be elected vice president. Harris, wearing suffragette white, introduced the president-elect to the stage after remarks that paid tribute to her barrier-breaking moment and the women who inspired her.

Biden, for his part, spoke directly to Americans who voted for President Donald Trump, personally asking them to help him heal the divisions of the country that have widened over the last four years.

"I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself," Biden said. "But now let’s give each other a chance."

"It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again," he said, adding that the American people had given him a "mandate" to usher in an era of cooperation.

"I'll work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as those who did," Biden said. "Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now."

He also spoke directly to Black voters whose support helped deliver him, first, the Democratic nomination in a crowded primary, and, later, the presidency.

"The African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours," Biden said, pounding his lectern as he spoke.

Biden's projected victory over Trump earlier Saturday capped one of the longest and most tumultuous campaigns in modern history, in which he maintained an aggressive focus on Trump's widely criticized handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. A majority of voters said rising coronavirus case numbers were a significant factor in their votes, according to early results from the NBC News Exit Poll of early and Election Day voters.

Saturday night, Biden explicitly promised that controlling the pandemic would be his top priority.

"Our work begins with getting Covid under control," he said.

Moments earlier, Harris, in a stirring speech of her own, focused heavily on the history-making moment of her election to the second-most important office in the land, and paid tribute to the women, particularly the women of color, who paved the way for her to arrive at the current moment.

"The generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation's history have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all — including the Black women who are often, too often, overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy," Harris said.

"All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act," added Harris, sporting a white pantsuit in honor of the suffragette movement.

"Tonight I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been, and I stand on their shoulders," Harris said.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," she continued. "Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."

She also lauded the country for the choice it had made in sending Biden to the White House, while previewing his message of unity.

“You chose hope, unity, decency, science and, yes, truth,” she said, prompting a loud chorus of blaring car horns and screams. “You chose Joe Biden.”

Biden and Harris spoke to an energized crowd that hung on to every word and responded excitedly, with car horns and cheers, to nearly every line. Minivans in attendance were adorned with Biden-Harris signs, SUVs were decorated with Biden-Harris blankets and tapestries and more than a few supporters were seen discreetly mixing cocktails.

Ahead of the speeches, supporters attending the rally said they felt electrified by Biden’s win.

“I cried. A lot. They were happy tears. Exuberant tears,” said Tim Valley, 32, who traveled to the event from Washington, D.C., ahead of the speeches.

“Hopeful. Emotional. Relieved,” Helen Milby said, describing her emotions about Biden’s win.

“I feel amazing, wonderful, relieved,” said Charlie McEntee, who drove in from Wallingford, Pennsylvania, for the rally. “Now, I just hope he can unite the country.”

Added Kay Betts, of Felton, Delaware, “He can say anything he wants tonight. I’m just happy he’ll be our president.”

Following Biden's speech, he and Harris were joined on stage by their spouses, Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, as confetti rained down on all of them.

An elaborate fireworks display capped the evening, with the explosions taking the shape of the spelling of Biden's name as well as the number 46 — as in, the 46th president of the United States.