Biden urges U.S. to “think about how far we’ve come” since last year

President Biden on Sunday continued his push toward getting Americans vaccinated while also celebrating July 4, acknowledging the country is emerging from the “darkest of years, a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss.” Mr. Biden said that COVID-19 “no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation and it’s within our power to make sure it never does again.” 

“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,” Mr. Biden said to about 1,000 first responders and military guests on the South Lawn. 

But Mr. Biden also warned “COVID-19 has not been vanquished,” saying the Delta and other variants still pose a threat to the country. “But the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated,” Mr. Biden said. “My fellow Americans, it is the most patriotic thing you can do —  so please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it, do it now. Do it for yourself, for your loved ones, for your community and for your country.”

Mr. Biden also struck a somber note, saying he carries a card in his pocket with the exact number of Americans who have died of COVID-19, which topped 600,000 on Sunday. “Those of you that went through this know that we have to remember them. We have to remember them, and we always will,” Mr. Biden said. 

Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden spent much of the weekend promoting the “independence from COVID-19” message. Mr. Biden on Saturday visited a cherry farm and an ice cream shop in Michigan. Jill Biden celebrated more than 70% of Maine residents being vaccinated on Saturday before going to her hometown of Philadelphia on Sunday.

The White House acknowledged last month that the nation would not meet Mr. Biden’s goal to have 70% of Americans vaccinated nationwide by July 4. 

Mr. Biden on Sunday also acknowledged the military, saying it was the “greatest honor to serve as your commander-in-chief.” He said he and the first lady were “thinking of our son, Beau, today.” Mr. Biden’s late son was a major in the Delaware National Guard and a veteran of the Iraq War.