By Annah Johnson
The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th President of the United States will go down as an especially historic moment. Alongside Biden, who makes history as the oldest president sworn into office at age 78, Vice-President Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to take the office, and the first Black and South Asian individual to hold the title.
With the unfortunate shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, the inauguration ceremony and the traditional events of Inauguration Day were unlike any other. Physical distancing, mask-wearing and the National Mall being closed to the public were unfamiliar sights for such a traditionally large and jubilant event. The increased security of 25,000 troops from the National Guard served not only as a deterrent for any foul-play but as a somber presence to remind onlookers of the recent attack on American democracy.
The weeks leading up to the inauguration were nothing short of unprecedented as the Capitol building was attacked by a mob incited by former president Donald Trump, only to lead to his historic second impeachment. With two impeachments, unwillingness to admit any influence in the insurrection and inability to admit his defeat in the election, Trump broke 150 years of tradition by not participating in any inaugural events.
Amidst the drama of Trump reluctantly leaving the office, Biden held a memorial service on the eve of his inauguration to gather in mourning over 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19. To collectively acknowledge the loss of American lives, 400 lights were placed along the edges of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, each representing 1,000 lives.
“Between sundown and dusk let us shine the lights in the darkness along this sacred pool of reflection and remember all we lost,” Biden said.
This event set a precedent for the Biden administration, that unity and accountability will remain their priority. Biden’s message of unification is not unusual and was only further amplified during his inaugural address.
Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts shortly after Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
Biden’s inaugural address followed the swearing-in ceremony with a continued message of unity.
“My fellow Americans, I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath before God and all of you,” Biden said. “I give you my word, I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution. I’ll defend our democracy. I’ll defend America and I will give all, all of you. Keep everything I do in your service, thinking not of power, but of possibilities, not of personal interest, but the public good. And together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us.”
Following his address, the ceremonial events proceeded as Biden and Harris were given inaugural gifts, and escorted to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
With no time wasted, Biden got to the Resolute Desk and began signing executive orders within his first eight hours as president.
A briefing from newly appointed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki detailed the orders that were pushed through in the first few hours of the Biden administration.
Day One Actions:
- Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery
- Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain
- Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States
- Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats
- Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19
- Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel
- Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians
- Proclamation on the Termination Of Emergency With Respect To The Southern Border Of The United States And Redirection Of Funds Diverted To Border Wall Construction
- Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel
- Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis
- Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census
- Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation
- Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities
- Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security
- Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing
- Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States
- Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
“We have a common goal which is sharing accurate information with the American people,” Psaki said in response to a question about how the Biden administration would combat misinformation. “His objective is to bring transparency and truth back to government, to share the truth even when it is hard to hear and that is something that I hope to deliver on in this role as well.”
The main focuses of the Biden administration are based on the four global crises including Racial and Gender Equality, COVID-19, Climate Change and Immigration. Although proceeding with the impeachment Senate trial is not a major focus of the new administration, they seemingly want it to happen as quickly as possible.
”We are confident though, that just like the American people can, the Senate can also multitask and they can do their constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the American people,” Psaki explained.
The Biden team hopes to get the National Security team and cabinet members in place by Friday.
Biden’s cabinet picks have already made headlines including a lot of familiar faces from the Obama administration, and a handful of new faces are especially interesting.
Some familiar faces include Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s opponent early on in the Democratic Party race for the 2020 seat, expected to be the administration’s choice as Transportation Secretary. Merrick Garland was picked as Biden’s attorney general and was the subject of a familiar political standoff when he was nominated to the Supreme court by President Barack Obama 8 months before the 2016 election. Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan, was nominated for secretary of Energy.
Some historic nominations include Deb Haaland as secretary of the Department of the Interior, who would make history as the first Native American cabinet member if she is confirmed. Alejandro Mayorkas was nominated for secretary of Homeland Security and would be the first Latino and immigrant in that position. Janet Yellen is nominated for Treasury Secretary and would be the first woman to ever hold the title. Avril Haines is the nominee for Director of National Intelligence, also would be the first woman in the role. Neera Tanden, nominated for Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, would be the first woman of color in the position. Rachel Levine would make history as the first openly transgender federal official if confirmed as the assistant secretary of Health.