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When he wrote his commentary "Can liberty survive all this unity?" (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 22) John Kass must have had in mind auditioning early for the part of the Grinch. Kass asks: "What was missing in Joe Biden's speech? A full-throated commitment to defending the core values of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which include the right of all Americans to speak their minds ... ."

Did Kass leave his television for a moment during Biden's inauguration speech? Maybe he missed these words: "To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree, so be it. That's democracy. That's America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our republic, is perhaps our nation's greatest strength."

Sounds to me like Biden made a "full-throated commitment to defending the core values of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights" in this statement alone. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan (and others) have famously said: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Judith K. Healey, Minneapolis

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Regarding "Unity is the left's responsibility, too" (Readers Write, Jan. 22): Of course it is. We all share responsibility in reunifying this nation, and we all need to do our part. However, the invasion of the Capitol as spurred on by former President Donald Trump was the most recent and disturbingly divisive action and should be stated directly, not implied as an example of what must stop.

What I really find extremely disturbing is that the letter writer lumped conservatives in with this fiasco and this president. Trump was not conservative. He was a self-serving narcissist who used conservatism as a dangling hook for other self-serving narcissists in Congress as bait. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not show a lack of respect for conservatives. She showed a lack of respect for a man who deserved none.

Mark Ketelsen, Coon Rapids
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Predictably, conservatives are complaining about Biden's inauguration speech, suggesting that he implied that they alone were responsible for the division in the country and that they are white supremacists. But take this quote from his speech: "I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness." He includes all Americans in this call, and at no point in the speech did he single anyone out. He went on to say, "And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another." Again, he includes all of us. The only reason someone would be offended by his mention of white supremacists is if you are one.

At the same time, the same conservatives complaining about Biden had no criticism for Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump for skipping the inauguration, a snub based on bitterness and divisiveness. Four years earlier, Barack and Michelle Obama graciously attended the inauguration of Trump, despite the fact that both Donald and Melania were birthers. If anyone had a reason to skip an inauguration, Obama did.

If conservatives are so offended by Biden's speech, I think it's because they have a guilty conscience.

Craig Hewitt, Crystal

NEW ADMINISTRATION

Hopes for a Biden presidency

Our country embraces two irreconcilable views of nuclear weapons: On one hand, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. On the other hand, nuclear weapons are the foundation of our national security.

Only magical thinking allows us to imagine that nuclear weapons are the unique weapon which can be kept indefinitely but never used in warfare. Americans need to hear that most of the world does not share this delusion.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work toward adoption of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a majority (122 nations) of United Nations members. The Nobel Committee understood the importance of this development.

On Jan. 22, the treaty entered into force, having been ratified by the required number of countries. However, the United States, in both the Barack Obama and Donald Trump eras, has vehemently opposed joining it. There is every reason to think that Joe Biden's administration will continue that policy.

While it's good to see that on Jan. 22 the Star Tribune covered Biden's offer to extend the New START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, it is disappointing to see no mention of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a much more ambitious treaty toward rescuing civilization from an abrupt end in nuclear holocaust.

Chuck Baynton, Cambridge
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Biden is not off to good start supporting America and Americans. Specifically, I am referring to canceling the Keystone XL permit, which essentially stops the project ("Keystone XL pipeline work halted," Jan. 21). Stopping the project eliminates thousands of good-paying jobs, wipes out future taxes for local jurisdictions, increases our dependence on Middle Eastern oil supply, will increase gasoline prices and does nothing to combat climate change. It was a virtue-signaling nod to the left, which is not good for America. I hope the decision is an outlier and not an indication of what to expect in the future.

Casey Whelan, Plymouth
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Flashback to four years ago to Trump's singularly dark inaugural address famous for its image of "American carnage." We see now how tragically prophetic his speech was. Rather than ringing in a new era that would rebuild infrastructure or fight the scourge of addictions — as Trump promised — the disastrous one-term president ended his tenure with nearly half a million Americans dead on his watch from a poorly managed pandemic, violent crime on the rise and a spike in drug overdoses. But despite his best efforts at overturning the election, Trump left the White House, perhaps never to return to power.

What should we hope for in the Biden administration? While it inherits enormous challenges from its predecessor, there are good reasons for hope in the next four years.

Let us hope for an end to the pandemic. We need to speed up the vaccination program to reach herd immunity faster. Until we do, thousands of Americans will die needlessly every day. Biden's plan includes new ideas like using the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up vaccination sites.

Let us hope to heal division. Jokes aside, a "boring" Biden presidency would in many ways be a gift. Political tensions are sky-high and need to be cooled off. Many Americans watched the attack on the Capitol with horror and revulsion. Could we hope that it marks a turning point?

Let us hope for justice. Justice requires a legal reckoning with the Trump administration. We must carry out such investigations with strict impartiality to restore confidence in our justice system. Biden has indicated that he will leave his Justice Department free to make its own decisions in these cases, reversing Trump's attempt at leveraging the DOJ for his own purposes.

Let us hope for democracy. I'm hopeful that the next election will restore confidence in our democratic process. This is the bedrock of our system and we've seen in this election how thin the threads are that hold it together.

Finally, let us hope for truth. QAnon came out of the shadows in the Capitol attack, but with tech companies pushing back on violence-linked conspiracy theories its influence may have peaked.

Flash ahead now to Inauguration Day in 2025. Perhaps Kamala Harris is taking the stage to address the crowd as the first female president (or Nikki Haley for that matter). Whoever gives that speech, what will they say about the last four years? Will it be more "American carnage"? I hope not.

Let us resolve to do our part, however small, to make the next four years better than the last four.

Matt Hoberg, Plymouth

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