On the very spot from which Joe Biden addressed the American people, insurrectionists had tried to hijack his ascent to the presidency. That was less than four months ago.
However typically upbeat Biden’s tone in his first ever star-turn before a joint session of Congress, the rancour and bitterness remain a big part of the story of the country he leads.
But Biden stood on the dais, where an angry mob had marauded, and did what he has done for decades: painted the American people an optimistic picture, pitching them a future of brighter days where ordinary folks get to win too.
“America is on the move again, turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setback into strength,” he said.
What he neglected to mention was that, if he gets his way, it comes with an eye-watering price tag.
The American Families Plan he announced will cost $1.8 trillion. The American Jobs Plan he talked up will cost $2 trillion. Add that to the $1.9 trillion of the COVID relief bill.
Never have the trillions been waved around so cavalierly in Washington DC. Biden said the richest in America will be paying through higher taxes.
More from US
Biden vows ‘America is on the move’ as he promises to ‘turn peril into possibility’
Rudy Giuliani’s home and office ‘searched by federal investigators’
Finding Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd was a ‘no-brainer’, juror says
Michael Collins: Apollo 11 moon landing astronaut dies aged 90
COVID-19: New guidance on what fully vaccinated Americans can do safely without wearing mask
It is a manifesto for big government.
Biden and his supporters see the spending as essential to reshape the American economy and the role of government in rebuilding after four years of Donald Trump and a year of COVID. He called this moment an “inflection point”.
Whether you think it is ambitious or reckless probably depends on where you sit on the political spectrum.
Whether it stands any chance becoming a reality, even with Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, is far from clear in these polarised times.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Just as with Biden’s focus on police reform in the wake of the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial – demanding progress by the anniversary of his death next month – there will only be so much patience with words rather than action.
Biden isn’t on the campaign trail now – America’s problems are his to solve.
On climate change, foreign relations, guns, equality and immigration, we already knew the shape of Biden’s vision.
The delay in staging the address did give Biden scope to claim credit for the success of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out across the country.
But how the pandemic has changed everything was evident in the room. Where a heady crowd of 1,600 usually jostle for space in the chamber, a more subdued 200, vaccinated and security screened, made for a sparse audience.
In fact, the real history of the night took place behind Biden. For the first time two women, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, occupied the seats of power at the president’s shoulder.
Biden has seen more of these addresses than most, for thirty years on the floor as a senator and for eight at the right hand of Barack Obama.
Where the country once saw Speaker Pelosi rip up Trump’s speech and a congressman yell “you lie” at Obama, Biden’s turn came, almost 100 days into his term, at a time when the sense of change and uncertainty in the country is palpable.
He made no mention of Trump.
“We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy, of pandemic and pain, and ‘we the people’ did not flinch,” he said.
But all the promises in the world will be meaningless unless they are kept.