Despite controversy surrounding the 2020 election, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office on Wednesday. Both have made history in the White House, as Biden holds the record for the oldest US president in history, while Harris is the first female, first Black and first Asian American to hold the country’s second-highest office.
The inauguration ceremony was different due to COVID-19. The crowd was limited to ensure social distancing requirements could remain in place. All attendees were wearing a mask and follow safety guidelines and procedures. The inauguration was attended by former presidents Barrack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. However, the newest former president, Donald Trump, stood true to his words and did not attend the ceremony, though former Vice President Mike Pence did attend.
The inauguration began at 10 a.m. and was hosted on the West Lawn of the US Capitol. While there was not a traditional inauguration parade, President Biden was escorted to the Capitol by military service members, and a virtual parade was available for the public.
Over the course of the ceremony, various artists performed.
Lady Gaga rectied the national anthem while sparking conversation over her Hunger Games themed attire. The artist later tweeted the significance of the golden dove accessory.
A dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other. pic.twitter.com/NGbgKM9XiC
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) January 20, 2021
Garth Brooks also took to the stage singing Amazing Grace. However, the performance was not all people had to talk about. After his performance, Brooks addressed and hugged every former president and first lady. While many online praised him for his loving and inspiring acts, others began to question the safety of the act amid a pandemic, as Brooks was not wearing a mask.
Really hope Garth Brooks is in good health after hugging the majority of America’s living former presidents.
— Daniel Hewitt (@DanielHewittITV) January 20, 2021
A representative of Brooks did confirm that he had tested negative for COVID-19 Wednesday morning as well as the days leading up to it.
Jennifer Lopez performed a patriotic medley of songs at the ceremony and showed support for the military members in attendance.
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Others in attendance, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, became a topic of conversation as well. Sanders has since become a meme for his mitten choice. One such tweet shows the hilarity of the situation.
“This could’ve been an email” pic.twitter.com/kn68z6eDhY
— Ashley K. (@AshleyKSmalls) January 20, 2021
Sanders donned the same coat that he wore in a previous campaign ad that went viral, causing another Sanders meme, ‘I am once again asking,” to re-emerge on election day.
Who Stole the Show?
Amanda Gorman was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. She made history again at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden as the youngest poet to recite at a presidential inauguration. She performed an original piece titled The Hill We Climb that she composed after the Capitol riots.
“When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it,” Gordon said.
Gorman grabbed the attention of people across the nation with the poem, including former president Barack Obama.
On a day for the history books, @TheAmandaGorman delivered a poem that more than met the moment. Young people like her are proof that “there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it; if only we’re brave enough to be it.” pic.twitter.com/mbywtvjtEH
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2021
While performers and attendees made up a large portion of the ceremony, all eyes were on President Biden as he gave his inauguration speech. He highlighted the day as a renewal of democracy. He also focused largely on the much-needed unity of the nation.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity,” Biden said.
Biden went on to describe the current challenges that divide the nation. This includes COVID-19, racism, extremism and more. However, he said America can overcome and reunite as one nation, but it will not be easy.
“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never assured,” Biden said.
President Biden urged that change can come. He pointed out the changes that have made America greater in the past, such as rebuilding after the Civil War, Martin Luther King Jr. and women marching for the right to vote. He made sure to highlight Vice President Kamala Harris as proof that change is possible.
“And today we marked the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office: Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said.
Biden also reiterated that he is a president for all Americans, not only those who voted for him.
“I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans. And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did,” Biden said.
He reached out to Americans that are worried about the future, their abilities to support their households and their families. He recognized these fears but clarified that division is not the answer.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment, stand in their shoes,” Biden said. “Because here’s the thing about life: There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.”
Biden also asked the nation to join him as they prayed in silence for the over 40,000 lives that have been lost to COVID-19 in the past year.
Biden ended his speech, ready to take on his role as the 46th President of the United States of America.
“So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction, devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America,” Biden said.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured Photo Courtesy of AP/ Andrew Harnik Poole