History made as Biden and Harris are inaugurated, completing peaceful transfer of power


Creative Commons

From left: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, and President Joe Biden wave from the steps of the Capitol. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

     On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath of office and were sworn in as President and Vice President, respectively. The ceremony started around 11:00 a.m. EST. It was a historic moment, as Harris is the first woman to ever be named Vice President, and the only Black or South Asian American ever to hold the position. Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court. Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. 

     The inauguration was extremely limited in its capacity, and only those with a formal invitation were permitted to attend. In typical years, the celebration would be open to the public, a day to hold in reverence the peaceful transfer of power that America is built upon. However, the Capitol attack on January 6, in addition to the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to largely increased security detail and attendance restrictions.

     Biden’s inaugural address was historically short, around 20 minutes. He detailed his values and priorities, especially pertaining to ending the pandemic and solving the climate crisis. Most notably, he presented a theme of unity, promising to spend the next four years healing divisions between the American people. Here is C-SPAN’s video of the full speech.

     Lady Gaga was featured singing the national anthem, a notable tone of resolve in her voice. Jennifer Lopez later followed, showcasing her rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” Country music star Garth Brooks also performed, in what he called “an act of unity” rather than a political statement. 

     One of the most prominent artists highlighted at the inauguration included the first national youth poet laureate, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman. She read her original poem aloud, commenting on America’s wounds and advocating for the healing process to finally begin. 

     Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were in attendance, as was former Vice President Mike Pence. Former President Donald Trump departed the White House earlier in the day and did not attend the ceremony. Following the formal inauguration, attendees gathered with masks and social distancing measures in place in order to celebrate safely.

     Later that evening, Biden signed 15 executive orders and two agency actions. Most of these were aimed at reversing Executive Orders placed by Trump surrounding issues such as immigration, climate change, and pandemic response. Biden is set to sign more of these orders in the days to come. 

     Regardless of the new administration’s policies, yesterday was undeniably historic for this country. The inauguration of the first female vice president came 101 years after some women earned the right to vote for the first time. 

      It is yet to be seen what further steps the administration will take in returning the United States to normalcy, but it is clear that Biden’s first 100 days will not be uneventful.