“Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you, 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.” – President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
In circumstances not witnessed in modern times, mask-wearing former presidents, Supreme Court Justices and other guests gathered near the steps of the U.S. Capitol in front of a handful of social-distancing people to witness the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as the 46th President of the United States.
Hundreds of National Guard troops were on hand, and security was extraordinarily tight, but there were no reports of any serious incidents and the ceremony went off without a hitch. The event was fairly low-key compared to past inaugurations, but it was still one for the ages for many reasons.
Donald Trump Departs White House
Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – and their respective spouses – were all sat close to the podium. However, for the first time in more than 150 years, the outgoing president did not attend his successor’s inaugural ceremony. Instead, Donald Trump quietly left the White House earlier in the morning by helicopter and ultimately flew with his family on Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago – Mr. Trump’s home in Florida. His outgoing vice president, Mike Pence, was present to witness a welcomed piece of history.
Prior to President Biden’s recital of the Oath of Office, the nation ushered in its first female vice president, Kamala Harris. Vice President Harris is also the first Black and first South Asian person to hold the office. Vice President Harris was sworn by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the high court’s first ever Latina member.
A Contentious Transition
After arguably the most contentious presidential transition in U.S. history, with the ongoing catastrophic coronavirus pandemic as a looming backdrop, and a deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol exactly two weeks prior, President Biden looked calm and determined when addressing the world for the first time as America’s Commander-in-Chief. His entire speech emphasized the need for less discourse and more harmony.
“This is democracy’s day,” stated the president. “A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages. America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.”
‘Politics Doesn’t Have To Be A Raging Fire’
President Biden never mentioned his predecessor’s name during his speech, but one would imagine he would have thanked him in his opening few words – had Mr. Trump been in attendance. However, the new president certainly eluded to the outgoing administration in his 21-minute address.
“And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us,” said the president. “Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” The president’s inaugural speech also called for an end to what he called an “uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.”
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Later in the afternoon, President Biden and Vice President Harris honored an Inauguration Day tradition by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama – and their spouses – accompanied the new president and vice president.
There was less pomp and circumstance surrounding this Inauguration Day, but perhaps that’s just what the country needed. The subdued atmosphere – with its social distancing, fist bumps and facemasks – complemented the incoming president’s personality and agenda while starkly contrasting with his predecessor’s.