- Justin Dynia and Ryan Metz
OFFICIAL: Joe Biden Sworn in as America's 46th President
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
After months of a cascade of crises, the false claims of election fraud, the rapidly worsening pandemic, and the violent insurrection against the U.S. Capitol itself, President Joseph R. Biden was sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States on a chilly and sunny day in Washington D.C. Vice President Kamala Harris was also sworn in as the 49th Vice President of the United States, becoming the first woman and Black and South Asian person to hold the position. This inauguration possessed stark differences with many of the traditional elements associated with inauguration day. Breaking with his predecessors, former President Donald Trump did not attend the inauguration. He left the White House earlier that morning, giving a speech to a small group of supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Marine One to return to his home in Mar-a-Lago.
Jim Bourg/ Reuters
The day started with both a nod to historic convention and the very unconventional climate that would serve as the backdrop for this inauguration. Before the inauguration, Biden carried on the tradition in which future presidents attend church service at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Next to him was the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Harris, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff. The group was joined by congressional members of both parties including now-Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). This picture, alongside other images of spaced out chairs and reduced crowd sizes, highlighted the indisputable evidence of how the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the fabric of American life at all levels. About 200,000 flags were placed around the National Mall to represent the members of the general public who were not able to attend the event.
The ongoing pandemic was just one factor that derailed the crowd size and atmosphere of the occasion. In the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol Building, the mood in Washington was one of angst. In anticipation of further pro-Trump riots, Washington D.C. implemented strict travel restrictions and closed 13 Metro stations that are in close proximity to the inauguration. Thousands of National Guard members patrolled the streets that surround the nation’s capital and greatly outnumbered the guests in attendance. Each of these preventive measures added to the tense atmosphere that seemed to replace the buzz of excitement that typically comes with the inauguration festivities.
Nevertheless, the customary inaugural events still proceeded as scheduled. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)-- the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which organized the event-- emceed the event. Singer Lady Gaga sang the national anthem and was just one of many high-profile guests in attendance, including all living former Presidents except for Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Afterwards, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts issued the oath of office to President Joe Biden.
Patrick Semansky/ Pool via AP
Once sworn in as president, now-President Biden took the podium and began his inaugural address. Biden set the tone of his address by proclaiming “democracy has prevailed.” With this powerful statement, Biden made it clear in taking the oath of office that the democratic principles of civility, truth, and unity would be reinstated into the American creed. “Unity,” Biden stated, “is the path forward.”
“Without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury,” he said.
He emphasized the necessity for a culture of mutual respect and decency. The speech also served as a point of contrast between the newly elected President and the former, the latter of whom received few explicit mentions. Biden, unlike Trump, directly acknowledged the devastation of the Coronavirus pandemic. He devoted a portion towards the end of his speech for a silent prayer for all the victims who lost their lives to COVID-19. That growing number currently stands at 402,000 Americans. This distinction and others helped to further show the arrival of a new attitude in White House, one that would work to bridge the gap of political divisions in the country rather than deepen it. In his closing remarks, Biden drove home this point, speaking of his hope that the country would join together to write an American story of “decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness.” Thus, Biden used his first moments as president to mark the beginning of the end to our “uncivil war.”
Singer and songwriter Garth Brooks followed up Biden’s 20 minute long speech with a rendition of Amazing Grace in which he called upon the audience both in person and at home to join him during the final verse. Amanda Gordon, the United States’s first national youth poet laureate, recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” which was written following the events on January 6 and the storming of the Capitol.
“For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us,” Gorman said.
Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman wrapped up the inauguration with his benediction calling for Americans to make “friends of our enemies.”
Jim Bourg/ Reuters
ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos described the speech as “personal, emotional at times, delivered with command.” Many lauded the beauty of the ceremony that marked a momentous occasion amidst the obvious obstacles plaguing the nation.
Chris Wallace, who moderated the infamously chaotic first presidential debate last year, told Fox News, "I have been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961, John F. Kennedy's 'Ask not.' I though this was the best inauguration I ever heard."
World leaders also expressed their congratulations and commitment to working with the new administration.
“I look forward to working with [Biden], and with his new administration, strengthening the partnership between our countries and working on our shared priorities: From tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security,” United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Biden's inauguration "the start of a new chapter for the transatlantic Alliance."
"U.S. leadership remains essential as we work together to protect our democracies, our values and the rules-based international order," he said.
"Congratulations to my friend, President @JoeBiden. This is your time!" tweeted former President Barack Obama.
Mandel Ngan/ AFP/ Getty Images
Outgoing President Donald Trump began his first day as a private citizen with a crowd of supporters to welcome him back home. Intense speculation still hovers around his future plans after office, with guesses ranging from a new political party, a 2024 presidential run, to his own media company. One certainty is his ongoing legal troubles, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate later this week to begin the first ever impeachment trial after a President has left office.
The First Hundred Days
Joe Raedle/ Getty Images
President Biden now turns his undivided attention to the first hundred days of his presidency, in which he hopes to accomplish an ambitious agenda during a crucial period. His top priorities will be the pandemic, the economy, racial equity, and climate justice. Backed by a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, he has the potential to move quickly and sign much of his proposed legislation into law. His coronavirus relief plan includes $1,400 in direct relief to all Americans eligible, renewed federal government coordination with the states for virus prevention and vaccine rollout, and a $15 federal minimum wage. He has promised to block the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline that has become a controversial project symbolic of the president’s commitment to a climate change plan of greater urgency and scope. While leaders from the European Union to the United Nations have welcomed the chance to work with the Biden administration, the President will face foreign policy dilemmas on other fronts. A standoff between Iran and the United States on whether Biden can rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal under the same terms negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015 looms. Even more notable is how his administration will deal with the growing threat of China, with outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally accusing the government of committing genocide and human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region just the day before Biden took office as Commander-in-Chief.
The challenges ahead are just as great as those behind. President Biden has been resolute in his promises that he will dedicate his presidency to tackling these issues early on. The next chapter of the American story begins during a dark period with Americans hoping the fog will lift over our country and reveal brighter days on the horizon for us all.
Editor’s Note: The BPR is committed to fair analysis of all news and events, and we can ensure our readers that our coverage of the Biden administration will be just as nonpartisan and measured as our coverage of the Trump administration.