The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States at noon (EST) will mark the commencement of the four-year term of Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president.
The inaugural ceremony will take place today on the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. and will be the 59th presidential inauguration. Biden will take the oath of office as president, and Harris will take the oath of office as vice president.
The inauguration will take place amidst extraordinary political, public health, economic, and national security crises, including outgoing President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election, which incited a storming of the Capitol, Trump’s unprecedented second impeachment, and a threat of widespread civil unrest, which stimulated a nationwide law enforcement response.
Festivities were sharply curtailed by efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate the potential for violence near the Capitol. The live audience will be limited to members of the 117th United States Congress and, for each, one guest of their choosing, resembling a State of the Union address. Public health measures such as mandatory face coverings, testing, temperature checks, and social distancing will be used to protect participants in the ceremony.
“America United” and “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union” — a reference to the Preamble to the United States Constitution — will serve as the inaugural themes.
The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets will play ruffles and flourishes. The U.S. Marine Band (nicknamed “The President’s Own”) will play a medley of patriotic music by Sousa, Bagley, and others; herald the entry of dignitaries to the inaugural platform; and perform “Hail, Columbia” (the official anthem of the vice president) after Harris is sworn in, and “Hail to the Chief” (the official anthem of the president) after Biden is sworn in. The band has appeared at every presidential inauguration since Thomas Jefferson’s in 1801.
Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence will attend the ceremony but outgoing President Donald Trump will not. Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, along with respective first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama, will attend, while former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will not, as they are unable to travel.
Senator Roy Blunt, chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, will serve as the inauguration’s master of ceremonies. Leo J. O’Donovan, a Catholic priest, member of the Jesuit order, and former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation. Georgia firefighters’ union leader Andrea Hall will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will recite her poem “The Hill We Climb”, and Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks will perform. At 22, Gorman will become the youngest inaugural poet. Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and a friend of Biden, will deliver the benediction.
Biden will be sworn in on a Bible, held by his wife, that has been in his family since 1893—the same one he used during his senatorial and vice-presidential swearing-in ceremonies. The Bible is large—5 inches (12.7 cm) thick—and has a Celtic cross on the front. Harris will be sworn in on two Bibles held by her husband, one belonging to Regina Shelton, a person important to her and her sister Maya Harris, and another belonging to former Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Biden was sworn into the vice-presidency by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens on January 20, 2009.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the oath of office to Harris. Sotomayor will become the first woman to administer an inaugural oath twice after she administered Biden’s at his 2013 swearing-in.
Will policy of more divided America, a more unsettled world change?
When Trump delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017, he promised an end to “American carnage,” a bleak and dysfunctional nation he had promised that he alone could fix, an analyst for Reuters wrote on Tuesday.
Closing out his presidency exactly four years later, Trump leaves behind an even more polarised America, where thousands are dying daily from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is badly damaged and political violence has surged.
Trump didn’t create the bitter differences that have come to define American life. Still, he seized upon many of them as tools to build his power base, promising to uplift rural America and the broader working class he said had been neglected by the Washington establishment.
When thousands of his angry followers – the vast majority of them white – marched on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, they rallied behind Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. The rioting that ensued left a police officer and four other people dead, dozens wounded and a nation shaken.
A major part of his legacy when he departs the White House today is likely to be Americans more politically and culturally estranged from each other than they were when he took office.
At the heart of that divide, Trump’s opponents say, is race. Early in his presidency, he initially resisted denouncing white nationalists after a deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, fueling perceptions that he sympathised with their cause. His harsh rhetoric often worsened racial crises that flared over police killings of Black people on his watch.
“Sadly, he is the natural outcome of the history of divide and conquer,” in American race relations, said Reverend William Barber, a prominent civil rights activist and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, an anti-poverty, anti-racism movement that Martin Luther King helped organise in the 1960s. “The thing is, he just pushed it all the way.”
Trump has repeatedly denied any racist animus.
White House spokesman Judd Deere rejected the notion that Trump’s legacy lay in tatters.
In a written statement to Reuters, Deere cited a list of what he considered Trump’s economic accomplishments, such as getting the country on the path to recovery and deregulatory moves, which have included loosened restrictions on auto emissions and oil drilling. He also argued that the president secured the border with Mexico, rebuilt U.S. military strength, brought some troops home and helped orchestrate development of a coronavirus vaccine in a matter of months.
“He leaves office having made America safer, stronger, more secure,” Deere said.
He declined, in the statement, to address racism accusations against the president.
Democrats and Trump’s impeachment trial
Democrats are expected to assume control of the Senate today, following the swearing-in of incoming Georgia Sens. John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Any move to begin impeachment proceedings is also contingent upon Senate leaders hashing out rules to govern the trial on the Senate floor.
In near-daily meetings, Democratic impeachment managers and lawyers have been discussing how to best make their case to the narrowly divided Senate — focusing on the seventeen Republicans required to convict Trump and the desire to bar him from seeking office in the future. The vote to bar Trump from holding any elected office would require a simple majority, following a vote to convict from two-thirds of the Senate. Nation