On January 20, 2021, the U.S. swore-in its 46th president – Joe Biden.
Biden took the oath of office for the president of the United States and then spoke to Americans tuned in on televisions, computers, and cell phones. As during his campaign, Biden’s tone was serious.
In inaugural speeches, the incoming leader often lays out a plan of sorts. Mr. Biden focused on America’s image worldwide and attacking the invisible enemy that has contributed to the deaths of 400,000 Americans. Mid-speech, Mr. Biden asked the audience to take a moment and say a silent prayer for all people who have endured COVID-19. He delivered polished assurances that “This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages.”
He touched on racial equality, climate change, political extremism, and domestic terrorism. The new president declared:
“The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured. Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11. Through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us, enough of us, have come together to carry all of us forward. And we can do that now. History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect.”
Biden referred to the events at the Capitol on January 6. The Capitol riot, as well as the coronavirus, caused this inauguration event to look significantly different from those of the past. Presidential inaugurations usually see 200,000 or more people invited, but Biden’s attendance didn’t break 2,000. Why?
Part of the reason is the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about spreading the infection. However, there is more to the story. Biden’s victory in the election has been controversial, with supporters of his opponent, Donald Trump, arguing that he did not win fairly. These accusations eventually lead to the protest at the Capitol. In response to that event, and to avoid any further unrest, this year’s inauguration was held without a public audience. While thousands of members of the public can usually buy tickets, that was not the case this year, and the streets around the event were fenced off, manned with a heavy police and National Guard presence. Only a small group of dignitaries, including former presidents, lawmakers, and celebrities, were present to witness the event. Lady Gaga performed the National Anthem, while Jennifer Lopez sang a medley of This Land is Your Land and America the Beautiful.
Usually, a presidential inauguration is a large affair with multiple parties and balls, but they were canceled this year. Hollywood instead held a TV special called Celebrating America, which hosted performances from actors and musical artists to celebrate the occasion.
As well as Biden ascending to the presidency, the event also saw Kamala Harris sworn in as the vice president. Harris became the first female vice president and also the first person of color to get the job. She delivered a speech, saying:
“In many ways this moment embodies our character as a nation. It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times. We not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless, and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up.”
So, what will Biden and Harris do now that they are in charge? On its first day, the new administration already passed over a dozen executive orders which reverse Trump-era policies. Since their political party, the Democrats, also have control of Congress at the moment, they are sure to start passing new laws soon.