Biden’s inauguration

Joe Biden becomes 46th President of the United States in unique inauguration ceremony at the Capitol

Photo by Kevin Lamaqrue for Reuters.

— 3 minute read — By Sam Portillo

Last month, Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States in a downsized but passionate ceremony at the Capitol.

The 78 year old had attended the last three ceremonies, beginning in 2008 when he was sworn is as Barack Obama’s Vice President. Although it only requires the declaration of the oath of office for a president-elect to become Commander in Chief, the tradition has extended to become a show of patriotic unity, with politicians from both parties typically attending the event as a show of good faith in the new administration. Outgoing president Donald Trump, however, who legally lost executive power at midday, decided to travel to his new residence in Florida while the ceremony took place.

The inauguration came just two weeks after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, damaging federal property, demanding a repeat election (in which Trump would win) and threatening to kill officials whom they considered traitorous, such as socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Vice President Pence, who formally recognised the victory of Joe Biden in Senate.

Security around the event was intensified accordingly, with costs rising higher from an original estimate of $44m. Three days before the inauguration, police arrested a 22 year old Trump supporter from Virginia was arrested for carrying a semi-automatic pistol, three high-capacity magazines and 37 rounds of ammunition. In a separate incident, a 63 year old woman from Connecticut claimed to be an officer, and then a member of the presidential cabinet, before fleeing from police and being arrested. By the morning of the inauguration, there were some 25,000 National Guard troops on duty in the capital.

The new occupants of the White House break several records. Biden immediately became the oldest person to ever hold the presidency, being several months older than Ronald Reagan when he left office. He is the first president from Delaware, a state on the North Eastern Seaboard and the second smallest in the country, and only the second Catholic to hold the position, after Kennedy.

Kamala Harris is the first woman to serve on a winning presidential ticket, distinguishing her from the 48 vice presidents that came before her, which were all men. With Jamaican- and Indian-born parents, she is also the first African American and Asian American vice president in history.

In the midst of great anxiety and division over issues such as the pandemic, civil rights, police brutality and financial security, the new president focused his message on the theme of unity. “Without unity there is no peace,” Biden said, speaking to a socially-distant audience at the Capitol and 33 million television viewers. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

Between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, the event organisers installed 56 pillars of light, representing each state and permenant territory, and 191,500 American flags in the place of a crowd. Performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and 22 year old poet Amanda Gorman, among others, rounded off a measured celebration in which America renewed its vows to democracy, truth and compassion.

With four decades of political experience behind him, it is no surprise that Biden was able to deliver a messsage with sincerity and gravity. The Democrats have longed for a return to the White House since letting Trump in four years ago. The Biden administration must now seize the opportunity, turning their words of hope and courage into action, and make the changes that the crises of the time demand.