When sophomore Adriana Robertson first heard the news that former Vice President Joe Biden won the race, she immediately breathed a sigh of relief as the uncertainties around the next four years faded away.
“I felt a physical weight come off of my chest when I read the news,” Robertson said. “The unsettling fear I felt of a second Trump presidency has been weighing on me for the past year and it is so nice knowing that we now will have a president who seems to genuinely care about the well-being of this country’s citizens.”
In an election like no other, Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes mark and became president-elect Saturday, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump.
The news came in after Biden secured 284 electoral college votes after his win in Pennsylvania and later Nevada, giving him 290, according to the Associated Press News. Trump has still not conceded and is filing lawsuits and pursuing legal actions across several states.
Biden won the popular vote with over 75 million, the highest number for any presidential candidate ever, according to AP News. While the official results might not be available for a few weeks, Biden’s win looked imminent as the margin of votes increased.
Robertson said she is optimistic about Biden’s presidency and hopes he prioritizes COVID-19 and climate change as soon as his term begins.
“It’s a known fact at this point that as a country we have not handled the pandemic as well as many other countries have and I’d like to see him implement techniques used in other countries to limit the spread of the virus,” Robertson said.
Over the past week, the U.S. recorded the highest number of new cases reported since the pandemic began in March, with over 100,000 on Sunday alone, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday night, the U.S. surpassed 10 million total COVID-19 cases.
Throughout his campaign, Biden pledged to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and make it one of his priorities.
Biden said during his acceptance speech Saturday night that he will assemble a group of scientists and experts as transition advisers to create a blueprint for his plan to address COVID-19.
“That plan will be built on a bedrock of science,” he said. “It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”
Overall, Biden’s victory signifies a step toward change for many students. For freshman Ciara Petley, she hopes to see an emphasis on issues regarding climate change, systemic racism and the country’s response to the coronavirus.
“I do believe Biden will be more progressive and open-minded while addressing these issues,” said Petley. “He seems to want to help those who have been affected by the tragedies of 2020 and I have a feeling he will do the best he can to fix what Trump has broken or ignored.”
She said his presidency will provide a chance to unite a highly polarized country in times of uncertainties.
“I have faith in him that he will focus on unity as a leader, and that he views America as a whole rather than red or blue and that he will listen to feedback,” Petley said.
Uniting the country is also an initiative senior Chelsea Wendyger thinks should be a priority under Biden’s presidency. She said the polarization could be attributed to some of the actions of the Trump administration over the past four years.
“I believe Trump has done a lot of damage when it comes to polarizing the political system,” she said. “I hope [Biden’s] presidency brings hope and healing to our broken systems and broken people, but we will just have to see.”
Biden emphasized his commitment toward uniting the country and being a president for all Americans.
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States,” Biden said.
The election also marked a historic moment as Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman, first Black person and first person of Asian descent elected as the country’s vice president. For some students, Harris’ victory means more than a change in leadership.
With this milestone, Mikayla Hinson, a sophomore majoring in environmental science and policy, said Harris’ victory broke several glass ceilings for women all over the country. When she first heard the news, she said she was inspired to see the first woman be elected to the country’s second-highest office.
“I’m proud to live in [an] America that will be led by its first female vice president,” Hinson said. “Kamala Harris is an inspiration and I hope that her success leads to more women holding important positions in the federal government.”
While Biden was the first choice among many students, some had other thoughts.
Issam Halabi, a senior majoring in information technology and treasurer of the College Republicans club, said it’s still “premature” to react to Biden’s victory.
“Until the completion of the lawsuits, recounts and official certification is formalized, it is premature to react meaningfully,” he said. “However, I will accept the results and support our nation’s president whoever that may be since I am an American.”
USF alumnus Jonathan Pajak also called into question Biden’s lead.
“I am personally a little worried with the validity of [Biden’s] election win but will openly accept the results and wish him a great presidency,” Pajak said. “As a small business owner in the state of Florida I am worried for our taxes and for the continuation of Obamacare as well.”
Despite Biden’s victory, students are not disengaging. Hinson said she will make sure to hold Biden accountable for promises made during his campaign.
“I expect Biden to stay true to his campaign promises on the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s rights, health care, race equality and education,” Hinson said. “Under Biden, I wish to see a more unified country led by politicians that will work for the well-being of the United States not against it.”
While Biden’s win represents a sign of positive change for many students, Wendyger said the fight for equality is far from being over.
“I think the fight for equality isn’t over yet and we have to continually hold them accountable for what is just,” Wendyger said.