By Margot Megalli
New York City, New York
On Wednesday, Joe Biden was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States. The day was full of ceremony, celebration and even executive action, suggesting that Biden is prepared to launch himself into the position without taking a break.
The day began with a visit to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle from Biden, Harris and their families as well as congressional leaders. At 8:00 AM, President Donald Trump left the White House, and, by 9:00 AM, he had left Washington, D.C., for the last time as commander-in-chief. In his final speech as president, Trump wished the incoming administration luck, noted what he believed were his top accomplishments and suggested a “return” to the White House in the future.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was the first to speak at the inauguration, commenting on the Capitol insurrection of January 6. Her remarks were followed by the National Anthem, sung by Grammy-winner Lady Gaga, and the Pledge of Allegiance, spoken by Fire Captain Andrea Hall.
At 11:42 AM, Kamala Harris was sworn into office as the first female, Black and South Asian vice president of the United States. The oath was administered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a record-breaker herself as the first and only Latina and Hispanic member of the Court.
At 11:49 AM, after a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” performed by Jenifer Lopez, Biden was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath. Biden then spoke on the challenges he foresees in the coming months and years, such as the pandemic, and how the U.S. must come together in order to face them. He promised to be a president for all Americans, regardless of whether they supported him in the election. In the last moments of his speech, Biden asked Americans to join him in a moment of silence for those lost to COVID-19 in the past year.
Biden’s speech was followed by a performance of “Amazing Grace” by country singer Garth Brooks and a recitation of a poem called “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. Gorman, a poet, activist and the first National Youth Poet Laureate, addressed the violence of the January 6 insurrection, the victories that come with Kamala Harris as vice president and the need for major political change.
Trump decided not to attend the inauguration, a decision unseen in about two centuries. However, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, were present and shared a laugh on the Capitol steps with Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
The inauguration ceremony was followed by a few short events, such as congressional gift giving to the new president and vice president, a review of military troops’ readiness in front of the U.S. Capitol and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, attended by a few former presidents as well.
Biden and Harris also engaged in a parade through Washington, D.C., just before the virtually aired celebration “Parade Across America” from the Inauguration committee. At 3:20 PM, Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and their family entered the White House for the first time in his presidency.
Biden also spent part of his day signing his first 17 executive orders, which included measures requiring masks on federal property and during interstate travel, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, terminating the Trump administration’s travel restrictions to majority-Muslim countries and ending construction of the border wall.
Biden emphasized unification, empathy and renewal, among other ideals, in his inauguration speech. The administrative goals highlighted in his speech revolving around racial justice, COVID-19 and poverty were clear and are already appearing in his actions as the 46th president of the United States.