In a simple yet poignant inauguration ceremony on January 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office as President and Vice President.
While the crowds were small due to the pandemic, and soldiers from the National Guard stationed all around for security reasons, it was nevertheless a historic moment for the country.
The ceremony was held at the U.S Capitol, the site of an insurrection two weeks ago, and that stood as a beacon of democracy. Leaders from both parties, including ex-Presidents and their spouses, attended the event. And of course, Kamala Harris made history as the first woman of Black and South Asian descent to be sworn in as Vice President.
The event also featured artists like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks. However, one young lady who stole the show was the first Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman.
Messages Of Unity
President Biden began his speech acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead: the loss of lives and jobs to the pandemic, the threats to democracy, the cry for racial justice, the rise of extremism, and the cry from our planet.
He spoke of unity as that elusive quality that can help "overcome these challenges, and restore the soul and secure the future of America." He reminded citizens that throughout the history of the country, there have been struggles between the forces of unity and those of division, but the better angels have always prevailed.
The President urged Americans to listen to and respect each other, and to reject lies and misinformation from those who seek to profit. Finally, he asserted that he would be a President to all Americans, those who voted for him and those who did not.
Amanda Gorman's poetry reflected the same message that "to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside." She concluded with "there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it."
After the inaugural ceremony, President Biden and Vice President Harris visited the Arlington National Cemetery. And in the evening, in lieu of an inaugural ball, there was a virtual celebration followed by fireworks.
During the day, the Presiden held a swearing-in ceremony for his staff and signed 17 executive orders that reversed ex-President Trump's policies on immigration, climate change, racial equality, and the economy. He also signed an order to re-enter the Paris Climate Treaty and the World Health Organization.
On his first full day in the office today, President Biden unveiled his government's response to the pandemic. He warned that the country could reach the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths by the end of spring. The response includes a mask mandate in all federal buildings and on public transportation, ramping up medical supplies, expanding testing, a plan to reopen schools and businesses, and a plan to distribute vaccines.
The challenges President Biden faces are unprecedented. His experience, empathy, and ability to bring people together will be key, and only time will tell.