Picture credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Today was the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. to become the 46th and oldest ever President of the United States. On this historic day, Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Black American, South Asian American, and woman vice president and also the highest ranking woman ever in the history of our country.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. administered the oath of office, as President Biden promised to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” in front of an audience of senators, representatives, family members of the Bidens, and former Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Thirty-four years after the first of his three presidential campaigns, Biden has finally become the new POTUS.
In his inaugural speech, President Biden said “democracy had prevailed,” in reference to the contested election. “We must end this uncivil war- red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say, just for a moment.”
Biden also referenced the healing and restoration that will be required due to the raging pandemic, economic struggle, racial injustice, and divided politics, saying “We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.”
Going against tradition, former President Trump was absent from the ceremony; he bid farewell to the country from the White House and flew to Florida where he plans to reside with his family. But he will continue to be in the limelight as the U.S. Senate makes preparations to begin his impeachment trial. The trial relates to an allegation brought by House Democrats that Trump unlawfully incited rioters to attack the Capitol as he continued to insist voter and election fraud.
Normally the inauguration festivities would have continued with a lunch with leaders of Congress, a parade, and evening ball of dinner and dancing. Instead, after the inauguration, former presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton joined Biden at Arlington Cemetery to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Due to health risks and security threats, a virtual “Parade Across America” was live streamed in the afternoon.
Amidst the celebration, President Biden got down to business immediately. He signed 17 executive orders, some of which undo actions taken by the prior Trump administration. Some of his orders included an extension on eviction actions, extension on student loans, rejoining the Paris climate record, stopping building of the Mexican border wall, and lifting travel bans on certain countries. He plans to send an immigration bill to Congress so illegal immigrants could become citizens, which will face a lot of debate in the Senate.
On many levels, today’s inauguration was unprecedented. Thankfully, with a lot of preparation and planning, it was a peaceful event. Now, America heads into a new chapter, under new leadership in the White House for at least the next four years.