After an eventful political season, the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took place Wednesday, Jan. 20, and included many events, speeches and performances centered around the theme “America United.”
The day started with former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump departing the White House. Trump became the first outgoing president since Andrew Jackson in 1869 to miss the inauguration of his successor.
That morning, Biden and Harris attended a church service with their spouses at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.
At 10:30 a.m., dignitaries began to arrive at the Capitol, including former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. COVID-19 limited this year’s attendance; according to NBC News, only 1,000 socially distanced guests were able to attend in person.
Past inaugurations drew much larger crowds; approximately 1 million people attended Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
A field of flags replaced the large crowd that traditionally fills the National Mall. According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the approximately 191,500 U.S. flags, including flags from every state and territory, represented Americans who could not travel to Washington.
Musical performances included the National Anthem by Lady Gaga, “America the Beautiful” by Jennifer Lopez and “Amazing Grace” by Garth Brooks.
Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old Harvard graduate who became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, read the inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb.”
“When day comes we ask ourselves, where we can find light in this never-ending shade?” her poem began, continuing with references to democracy and the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”
After Harris and Biden were sworn in, Biden gave an inaugural address focused on unity.
“Uniting to fight the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things, important things,” Biden said.
During his inaugural address, Biden asked Americans to hold a moment of silence for the more than 400,000 people who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In my first act as President, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all of those who we lost this past year to the pandemic,” Biden said.
The theme of unity continued into the evening with “Celebrating America,” hosted by Tom Hanks. The inaugural concert featured many celebrities, including John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and Jon Bon Jovi. The special event also featured people from all over the country, including nurses, teachers, astronauts and delivery drivers.
Broadway stars joined in singing a performance of “Let the Sunshine In” from the musical “Hair” via video. Many of the musical selections talked about hope in the face of darkness.
The special ended with a fireworks show at the Capitol; Biden and Harris stood with their families as Katy Perry sang her hit song “Firework.”
“Tonight, we ponder the United States of America: the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hopes and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” Hanks said during the special.