Inauguration Day 2021: Biden, Harris sworn in as president and vice president of the United States

On Wednesday morning, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S, taking office with a pledge to pursue reconciliation after a difficult four years that changed American society.

At approximately 11:48 am, President Biden placed his hand on a 128-year-old family Bible and swore to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” The oath office was overseen by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” said the president in his inaugural address. “Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph – not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people – the will of the people – has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.”

Mr. Biden also mentioned in his speech that he was being inaugurated on the same steps of the Capitol that had been stormed two weeks earlier by a “violent mob,” while also noting that the country has realized that “democracy has prevailed.”

His speech instantly set out the contrast between himself and now-former President Donald J. Trump, after a profoundly difficult transition, that included incidents of political extremism, racial inequality, such as the recent storming of the Capitol.

“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibility,” said Mr. Biden. “Much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer… The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront, and we will defeat.”

Shortly before the president’s oath, Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Sen. Kamala Devi Harris as vice president. The vice president swore in on a Bible that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, a symbol of civil rights and first African American man on the Supreme Court. Vice President Harris made history being sworn in as the first female, Black and Indian American vice president. She is now the highest-ranking woman in U.S history.

Harris’ role of holding the second-highest office will be even more significant as the Senate is now evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, according to the New York Times. The vice president of the United States could end up having to cast decisive votes in the Senate.

As thousands of National Guard troops were guarding the ceremony in Washington, along with the new president addressing a near-empty Capitol, the inaugural ceremony was unlike any the country has ever seen. The National Mall was filled with 200,000 small flags signifying the Americans who would have been in assistance had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the nation.

Members of Congress, additional justices of the Supreme Court, and now-former Vice President Mike Pence were present to watch Trump’s successor’s inauguration with seats spaced apart per COVID-19 guidelines. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were also in attendance.

However, now-former President Trump did not attend the ceremony after leaving Washington earlier Wednesday morning. Instead, Trump addressed his supporters for the last time as president before boarding Air Force One to fly to his residence in Florida. He is the first outgoing president not to attend his successor’s inauguration in more than 150 years.

The inauguration had a star-studded line-up with performances from artists such as Jennifer López, Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks. Youth poet Amanda Gorman was also at the inauguration after being selected to read a poem at the ceremony.

Tonight, Mr. Biden declined to hold the traditional inaugural balls because of the pandemic but will commemorate his inauguration in a television special called “Celebrating America.”

According to NPR, the now-president plans to sign 17 executive actions in the Oval Office in order to get a head start on his top priorities while in office and to negate some of President Trump’s initiatives.

Mr. Biden wants his efforts to and potentially resolve the COVID-19 crisis, the economy, social justice and climate change to create momentum. Among the several steps, he plans to revoke President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim majority countries, expand the ban on evictions and foreclosures as a result of the pandemic, and advise agencies in their programs and policies to conduct a baseline analysis of structural disparities.

In his address, Mr. Biden said, “I’ll defend America and I will give all – all of you – keep everything I do in your service. Thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but of public good.”