Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is hours away from being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States during a ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps embodying the peaceful transition of power that stands as a hallmark of American democracy.
But this will be a presidential inauguration like no other.
Instead of the throngs of supporters hailing from all corners of the country to celebrate Biden’s ascension, the new president will raise his right hand in front of a sparse audience of well-wishers that will not include Donald Trump – the first time since 1869 that an outgoing president has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration.
Instead of thousands of people gathering on the National Mall for the festivities, the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be replaced by a virtual parade that will be televised while thousands of National Guard troops patrol the nation’s capital.
And instead of basking in the glow of his convincing electoral triumph, Biden, 78, will be taking over the nation as millions question his legitimacy two weeks after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building over baseless claims of election fraud.
All this as Biden will emphasize the need for the country to come together. The theme for the inauguration will be “America United.”
Shortly before noon on the steps of the west entrance of the Capitol, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, becoming the first woman, as well as the first Black or Asian American, to assume the post.
Then at roughly noon, Biden will put his hand on the Bible as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office. His inaugural address will lay out his vision for solving the nation’s problems, like a spiraling COVID pandemic and a reeling economy.
While Trump won’t attend, departing Vice President Mike Pence will be there.
Pence has chosen to welcome the incoming president rather than join a planned send-off for Trump earlier in the morning at Joint Base Andrews where, the departing president will climb aboard Air Force for one final trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Despite the turmoil surrounding the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies Wednesday, there will be some familiar moments: a national anthem (sung by Lady Gaga), a poetry reading (by Amanda Gorman) and a musical performance (by Jennifer Lopez).
— Ledyard King
Biden’s inaugural address to push unity to meet ‘extraordinary challenges’
Addressing a deeply divided nation, Joe Biden will call for unity in his inaugural speech Wednesday in an appeal to “bring the country together during an unprecedented moment of crisis,” advisors to the president-elect said.
The speech, echoing the themes the Democratic former vice president campaigned on, is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes, according to a source familiar with the speech.
After he’s sworn in as the 46th president, Biden will address a nation on edge — one in the thick of a global pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and struggling to recover economically.
The speech comes amid heightened security concerns after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress counted electoral votes. Surveys have found more than 60% of Republicans who supported Trump falsely believe Trump was the rightful winner of the election.
Trump, who leveled baseless claims of voter fraud to unsuccessfully overturn the election, is skipping the inauguration. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend.
Biden’s remarks will “be a forward-looking vision for his presidency while addressing the moment we are living in as a country,” advisors said, noting the speech is built around a theme of unity.
Biden stayed Tuesday night at the Blair House, the president’s official guesthouse near the White House. He will begin his day at a Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral before traveling to the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration ceremony.