By: Daniel Galal
On Wednesday, January 20th, President-Elect Joe Biden was sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States. This comes after months of contentious rhetoric over election security, baseless allegations of voter fraud, and the storming of the US Capitol on January 6th. The inauguration process, conducted by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was met by a small, socially-distanced crowd made up of fellow office-holders. Despite a quiet ceremony, the new President reflected on the immensely contentious events of the recent months and the Trump presidency as a whole. In his inaugural address, Biden focused on meeting chaos and disunity with fortitude and strength.
His speech reflected the fragile security of American democracy: “Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed”. Besides his promises to uphold democratic principles, Biden promised a return to normalcy. In an increasingly polarized political space, the President advocated for bipartisanship, polite cooperation, and an end to a political culture he deemed “total war”.
Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected Vice-President, was inaugurated at 11:40 A.M. Biden was formally inaugurated at 11:47 A.M.
Even though COVID-19 protocol prevented attendance from the general public, security was heightened in the wake of the Capitol storming and subsequent threats. 25,000 National Guard members were called in to protect various landmarks in DC, most importantly the Capitol itself. With such rigid security, several threats of riots and attacks never materialized, including a bomb threat called to the Supreme Court that turned out to be a hoax (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/01/20/inauguration-day-security-washington-updates-protests-arrests/4214845001/). State capitals were also spared from additional protests—what were planned to be mass demonstrations only gathered minimal support. Law enforcement drew a hard line when it came to security at the inauguration, with Attorney General Jeffery Rosen stating, “Anyone who does that will be caught, and they will be prosecuted.”
Despite a rather muted ceremony given heightened security and health safety protocols, the inauguration still maintained a sense of normalcy. As is tradition, the national anthem was sung to open the ceremony, this time performed by Lady Gaga. Amanda Gorman, a National Youth Poet Laureate and activist, recited her poem “The Hill We Climb,” which spoke to the country’s sense of hope and resilience amidst times of injustice. Additional performances were given by Garth Brooks and Jennifer Lopez. Breaking away from tradition however was the absence of Donald Trump, though his vice-president Mike Pence was in attendance.
Though under pressure from unprecedented events and challenges, the tradition of the Presidential Inauguration held up on Wednesday. With a nation under similar stress, Biden and Harris promise to lead with a similar strength and resilience.