Inauguration ceremony shrouded in security amidst pandemic

Biden, Harris sworn in during peaceful event


Amelia Dunkin

DC and the nation’s capitol were relatively quiet in the days before the January 6 counting of electoral votes.

On Jan. 20, an array of American politicians, select celebrities, and other American citizens gathered on the West Front of the nation’s capitol to bear witness to the transition of power between the outgoing administration and President-elect Joe Biden.

At 7:46 a.m. EST, Donald Trump reportedly left the White House for the last time as President of the United States. A half an hour later, outside of Air Force I, Trump gave a farewell speech to his supporters, outlining his administration’s achievements over the past four years; citing resolve in the Middle East, the passage of economic relief packages during the pandemic, and the fixation of “broken trade deals,” to name a few.

Meanwhile, President Biden, along with his family and select members of Congress, attended mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle before arriving on Capitol Hill.

At 9:15 a.m. CST, previous presidents appeared on the West Front of the Capitol including the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons. And, a few minutes later, the Bidens begin to walk up the steps of the Capitol building while escorted by Capitol Police.

By 10 a.m. CST, everyone expected to be present during the ceremony was present, including Vice-President Mike Pence and numerous members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. 

At 10:11 a.m. CST, Vice-President Kamala Harris arrived while accompanied by her husband, Doug Emhoff. A few moments later, the Bidens arrived and the ceremony began.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was the first to speak during the ceremony, outlining what is to be expected of its proceedings. She later explained that this marked “the day when our democracy picks itself up.” Klobuchar was followed by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who went on to explain the significance of this inauguration. 

Senator Blunt began his speech by taking note of the physical differences between this inauguration and previous ones. The most significant of which was the increased security presence due to recent events and the evident decrease in the number of people present due to COVID-19. A life-long friend of President Biden, Reverend Father Leo Jeremiah O’Donovan, also shared a few words when he delivered an Invocation.

The presentation of the flags took place at 10:35 a.m. CST and was followed by the singing of the National Anthem, which was performed by Lady Gaga. At 10:41 a.m. CST, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the Vice President of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Before Biden took oath, Jennifer Lopez performed “This Land is Your Land,” and, in the middle of her performance exclaimed, “Una nación, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos!” In English, this translates to “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” And then, at 10:48 a.m. CST, Chief Justice Roberts swore in Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Senator Klobuchar said a few words after President Biden’s swearing in and was the first to officially introduce him as the President of the United States. At 10:52 a.m. CST, Biden began his Inaugural Address.

President Biden’s address focused on unifying a divided nation to combat the spread of COVID-19, “anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence… joblessness, [and] hopelessness.” Additionally, President Biden reminded Americans that “the forces that divide us… are not new” as Americans have unified themselves in times of peril during the world wars, 9/11, and the aftermath of the Civil War. Biden also referenced several key moments in American history that took place where he was standing–the construction of the Capitol dome amidst the Civil War, the march for the women’s vote 108 years ago, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech–to emphasize that change is possible. Upon recalling the challenges that the United States faces, Biden periodically reminded Americans that the world and “our children” are watching. To close his address, he explained the legacy that he wants America to leave behind when facing these issues:

“The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived. That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow. So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.”

After President Biden’s address, Garth Brooks, along with the U.S. Marine Band, performed “Amazing Grace.” This was then followed by a few words from Senator Roy Blunt.

Amanda Gorman, a 23-year-old poet from southern California, read “The Hill We Climb,” a poem outlining the hope Americans must funnel into the action required to make amends to the flawed “American system.” Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. 

At 11:25 a.m. CST, a long-time friend of President Biden’s, Rev. Silvester Beamen delivered the benediction to call upon God’s grace to unite Americans to guide them through the domestic trials that they will face in the coming years. 

At 11:30 a.m. CST, the colors were retired by the Color Guard.

Additional inauguration events took place later in the day including a televised special “Celebrating America”  hosted by Tom Hanks. Musical performances included Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and Katy Perry.  The night was capped off with a fireworks display over historic DC buildings and monuments. 

DC and the nation’s capitol were relatively quiet in the days before the January 6 counting of electoral votes. (Amelia Dunkin)