On Jan. 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. Kamala Harris was also sworn in as the first female vice president and the first person of South Asian and Black heritage to ever hold this office. The ceremony and celebratory events were held in Washington D.C. despite the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact daily life. Spectators were not allowed to attend the inauguration and the people that were in attendance were all distanced from each other and masked to follow proper COVID-19 protocols.
Some notable guests of Inauguration Day included former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush and former President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton. Additionally, many members of Congress were in attendance such as Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt who were in charge of organizing inaugural events and therefore had speaking roles at the ceremony. Most notably, former President Donald Trump was not in attendance, which was an unprecedented act in modern times. Instead, Trump held a farewell ceremony before he and Melania Trump boarded a helicopter to Florida. The last outgoing president who failed to attend an inauguration was Woodrow Wilson who was too ill to go to the inauguration of Warren G. Harding in 1921.
Before the inauguration took off, Biden, Harris and notable members of Congress all attended a Catholic mass in Washington D.C. with their families. After church, Biden arrived at the Capitol building which was being heavily monitored after its seizure by domestic terrorists on Jan. 6. He arrived at approximately 11 a.m. with Jill Biden, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, the soon to be second gentleman. At 11:42 a.m. Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president with the oath being led by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Shortly after, Biden was sworn in as the 46th president, surrounded by his family. He then shared an inaugural address where he celebrated the country’s democracy and acknowledged the trying times America is facing.
“Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.,” Biden said.
He stressed that there is a lot to repair and rebuild within the U.S. but that he believes in the people of America. He advocated for unity and bringing people together even in light of the recent violence against the government and a global pandemic.
“And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear,” Biden said, remaining hopeful.
After Biden’s speech, poetic and musical performances continued the day. Lady Gaga sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” while Jennifer Lopez sang a mashup of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful.” Garth Brooks also performed “Amazing Grace.” Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman delivered an original poem called “The Hill We Climb” and earned a lot of praise on social media for her work. She will be reciting another original poem at the Super Bowl this upcoming weekend.
After these performances, Biden signed documents including cabinet nominations and the Inauguration Day proclamation. The president and vice president were given inauguration gifts which included Lenox crystal vases, a Civil War era painting and American flags. The pair then went on to the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery where they met up with former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. Biden and Harris were then ushered to the inaugural parade where Biden shook hands with some people on the street including Al Roker, a co-host of the Today Show on NBC. Roker consistently covers the inaugural parade and has a streak of shaking hands with the newly inaugurated presidents. The Bidens entered the White House around 4 p.m. after which Harris swore in the new Democratic senators. Biden got right to work by signing executive orders.
The Celebrating America special aired on ABC and Biden again preached unity in his opening remarks. The musical performances continued with acts from Demi Loavato, John Bon Jovi, Bruce Springstieen and the Foo Fighters. Later that night, fireworks were set off over the White House in celebration of the new administration. Already, the Biden administration has signed many executive orders since inauguration. In addition, they have created a COVID-19 vaccine plan in hopes of better disseminating vaccines.