Biden, Harris Make History at Inauguration

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January 20, 2021
Kamala Harris Oath of Office
Joe Biden Oath of Office

Joe Biden took the Oath of Office and became the 46th President of the United States, on a day marked by the somber presence of social distancing and so many people, fearful of the still dreaded COVID-19 virus, wearing masks. At 78, Biden is the oldest U.S. President ever.

Kamala Harris took the Oath of Office and became the first American Vice-president to be African-American, South Asian, or female. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, became the first "second gentleman."

In attendance were all but two living former Presidents. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama were there. Jimmy Carter was too ill to attend. Donald Trump chose not to attend. Mike Pence, the outgoing Vice-president, was in attendance.

Biden became the 15th President to have previously served as Vice-president. The last to do so was George Bush, who succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1989.

Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem, and Jennifer Lopez sang, "This Land Is Your Land." A 23-year-old poet named Amanda Gorman read her poem "The Hill We Climb." (She is the youngest ever inaugural poet.)

Biden inaugural poet Biden inaugural singer Lady Gaga Biden inaugural singer Jennifer Lopez

Biden gave a 25-minute inaugural address, sounding notes of unity and hope amid the trying times caused by nearly 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus and a deep political division sowed in part by Trump's rhetoric and actions during his historic term.

Biden inaugural address

In his address, Biden channeled previous Presidents, referencing the "hallowed ground" and the "last full measure of devotion" referred to Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address and the "better angels" that both Lincoln and Obama mentioned in their inaugural addresses. Biden referenced the Declaration of Independence: "But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect union."

He referenced the "I Have a Dream" speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the protests at a much earlier inauguration of women who demanded the vote. Time and again, he appealed for Americans to come together, to unite against common foes, to harness the common strength of a determined people to join hands and grow stronger united.

A few hours later, Bush, Clinton, and Obama joined Biden in a ceremony of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Biden then made his way to the White House.

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David White