President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were officially sworn in on January 20, continuing past a presidency marred by constant turmoil and conflict. In his inaugural address, Biden pledged to “press forward with speed and urgency […] in this winter of peril and possibility,” and end the “uncivil war” of disinformation. We come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”
Holding a hand on the 127-year-old Biden family bible, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to President Biden at 11:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the official expiration of Trump’s term in office. This time-honored transition marked the official end of former president Donald Trump’s campaign to overthrow the 2020 election results that culminated in an armed assault on the US Capitol. Biden, Harris, and other leaders have entered office with a message of unity, with many wearing purple to symbolize suffrage or bipartisanship and both executives speaking of interparty collaboration. This inauguration marks a historical moment as Kamala Harris became the first woman and woman of color to serve in a federal executive role. Harris was sworn in using civil rights legend Thurgood Marshall’s bible, as well as that of her close family friend Regina Shelton’s bible.
Standing on the west steps of the US Capitol, proceedings were shadowed by the historical January 6th raid on the Capitol building, which has now been labeled as domestic terrorism intending to assasinate members of Congress. Biden recognized these unprecedented attacks on our nation’s democracy in his speech, saying “on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.” With six casualties and many injuries, the Capitol attack was the first time since the War of 1812 that armed insurrectionists forcibly entered the US Capitol, the first casualty in the Capitol itself, and the first and only time the flag of a hostile state — the Confederacy — was waved in the Capitol building itself. Biden has pledged to reunite the country and move past this conflict, while also increasing federal security to prevent future attacks.
Attending the inauguration ceremony were notable members of Congress, as well as unconfirmed Cabinet members, previous US presidents and first ladies, and the extended families of President Biden and Vice President Harris. Former President Trump was notably absent during the ceremonies, breaking a presidential tradition upheld since 1869 by traveling to Florida on the day of the inauguration. Also notable: Biden will enter office without any confirmed Cabinet secretaries or members of his National Security Team. Both occurrences have been criticised by officials as threatening to further destabilize the US government’s response to a crisis.
In addition to the significant political and historical impacts of the Biden inauguration, many Americans are hailing the outfits worn by members of the Biden and Harris families as well as members of Congress. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Harris all wore purple outfits, recognizing the role of suffrage and civil rights movements while also promoting connections repudiated in the Capitol siege. The connecting element between the numerous monochrome outfits worn by elected officials was the focus on symbolic designers: Harris and others selected new and up-and-coming designers, many people of color, to create their outfits. On the other end of the spectrum, senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and secretary-designate Janet Yellen dressed functionally, all three wearing oversized parkas, Sanders carrying homemade mittens, and Yellen bringing a lap-blanket.
After taking office, President Biden has organized a plethora of executive orders aimed to repeal some of the most harmful policies enacted by the Trump administration, such as a repeal of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling policies and laying a foundation for a federal minimum wage of $15. Both President Biden and Vice President Harris are also leading a reshaping of American roles in world politics by meeting with world leaders and international organizations, reversing many foreign criticisms of the Trump Administration’s policy.
Biden and Harris concluded their multi-day inauguration festivities with a virtual concert hosted by Tom Hanks and including many Hollywood celebrities, celebrating diverse cultures and heritages shared in the American diaspora. Concluding the inauguration address, President Biden looked to the future. Biden said in the country, “So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time. Sustained by faith. Driven by conviction. And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.” The Biden inauguration, symbolizing this optimism and patriotism, begins the next administration of our nation’s president.