Inauguration Day: Ushering in the Next Era

Inauguration+Day%3A+Ushering+in+the+Next+Era

Lily Nobel

As of yesterday, January 20th, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been formally sworn in, assuming the positions of President and Vice President of the United States of America. 

 

Guests began to arrive at 10 am EST for an unusual ceremony due to increased security presence, socially distanced seating, and an absence of the typical crowd of attending citizens. The Inauguration Committee first requested citizens stay home due to the ongoing pandemic, but the National Mall where people would otherwise gather was also blocked off due to concerns about safety following the siege on the Capitol on the 6th. 

 

Also notably absent was Former President Donald Trump, who departed Washington for Florida before the inauguration, breaking the precedent of former presidents attending the inaugurations of their predecessors, last broken by Andrew Johnson in 1869. Former Vice President Pence was present for the ceremony.

 

Present were congress leaders, notable lawmakers, cabinet nominees, and former presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton. Former President Jimmy Carter, who is 98, declined to attend due to health concerns. 

 

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrived at 10:30 am EST, and to fanfare from the marine band leaders of the House and Senate were introduced and took their seats. 

 

Former Democratic presidential candidate and current senator Amy Klobuchar gave a speech, citing today as “The culmination of 244 years of democracy.” She also acknowledged, like the other speakers, the storming of the Capitol. “[When the rioters] desecrated this temple of our democracy, it awakened us to our responsibilities as Americans. This is the day when our democracy picks up the dust, brushes itself off, and we go forward as a nation […].”

 

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, officially started the 59th Inauguration Ceremony with a praise of democracy and the resilience of America, a common theme in nearly all inaugural addresses. The Constitution “declares democracy in the first three words,” said Sen. Blunt, “declaring ‘we the people’ as the source of the government.” 

 

“We are better than we have been and we are worse than we hope to be,” said Sen. Blunt, highlighting yet another major theme of the speeches– praise of America alongside acknowledgement of its faults.

 

Following the Missouri senator’s speech, Catholic priest Father Leo J. O’Donovan recited a prayer for the presidency and the safety of the nation. Biden is only the second Catholic president to take office, and was also sworn in on a Catholic bible. 

 

Lady Gaga completed the traditional performance of the national anthem before Andrea Hall, the first Black woman fire captain, recited the pledge of allegiance in ASL as well as spoken English.

 

At 11:41 EST, Vice President Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonya Sotomayor. With VP Harris’s swearing-in, America welcomed our first African American, first Asian American, and first woman vice president. 

 

Jennifer Lopez performed This Land is Your Land and America the Beautiful as Chief Justice John Roberts arrived to swear in President Biden.

 

President Joe Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, becoming the 46th President of the United States at 11:49 EST. 

 

In the speech following the swearing-in, President Biden touched on a wide variety of topics– namely the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for racial justice, the impending crisis of the climate, and the deep partisan divide in our country. However, he stayed hopeful, and focused most of all on the need for unity to move the country forward.

 

“I know speaking of unity can sound like a foolish fantasy,” said President Biden. “I know our american history has been a struggle between the american ideal that we all are created equal, and the ugly history of racism, nativism, and violence.”

 

“We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. Without unity, there is no peace. There is no progress, only exhausting outrage. No union, only a state of chaos. […] Unity is our path forward.” Said the President, summarizing the key theme of his campaign and speech. 

 

The President also lead the nation in a prayer and moment of silence for those 400,000 people lost to the coronavirus pandemic so far. 

 

“We’re entering what might be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and face this as one nation. […] We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”

 

President Biden’s speech lasted 22 minutes and was followed by a virtual ‘Parade Across America’ beginning 3:15 EST.