President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took their oaths of office Wednesday in a historic inauguration.
Harris will be the first female, the first Black and first South Asian vice president of the United States.
After a tumultuous year that began a new chapter of the civil rights movement as Americans took to the streets to protest against racial injustice and police brutality after the police killing of George Floyd, the swearing-in was a remarkable achievement for a country that has often struggled to live up to its ideals of equality for all.
Harris took the oath on two Bibles — one that belonged to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, one of her heroes who inspired her to pursue a career in the law, and that of Regina Shelton, a neighbour who cared for Harris and her sister Maya when they were growing up and attended church with her, where she was introduced to the teachings of the Bible. Harris has described Shelton as a “second mother to us.”
After campaigning on a promise to heal a fractured nation, Biden will begin the work of uniting the country Wednesday when he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol — a mere two weeks after insurrectionists incited by President Donald Trump stormed the building and tried to overturn the election results based on Trump's lies.
Biden arrived at the Capitol Wednesday morning after Trump — the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend his successor's swearing-in ceremony — had left Washington, DC. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol when it was stormed by a violent mob earlier this month, and second lady Karen Pence walked out onto the inaugural stands to bipartisan applause.
More than 25,000 National Guard troops are in place to ensure that the nation's transfer of power can take place peacefully. Trump left the White House as president for the last time Wednesday morning, flying to Florida with first lady Melania Trump before the swearing-in ceremonies, dispensing with the tradition of greeting the incoming President and first lady at the White House and riding with them to the Capitol. CNN's Kate Bennett reported that White House chief usher Timothy Harleth will meet the Bidens later at the White House.
On his way out of the Washington area, Trump — who was not wearing a mask — again used the racist term “China virus” to describe the coronavirus, describing it in the past tense, and touted his administration's work on developing a vaccine.
He thanked his staff and family and wished the next administration “great success” but did not mention his successor by name.
“We love you, this has been an incredible four years,” Trump said in unscripted remarks at Joint Base Andrews shortly before leaving for Florida. “We've accomplished so much.”
“I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening.”
After decades in politics, Biden will deliver the most important speech of his life on Wednesday at a time when the nation is gripped by a seemingly uncontrollable pandemic, an economic collapse that has left millions unemployed and deep divisions over issues of racial justice and police brutality. In a speech that is expected to span 20 to 30 minutes, Biden will speak about how he hopes to unite the country and is expected to reflect on the theme at the root of his presidential campaign: restoring the “soul of the nation.”
Biden plans to call on all Americans to meet the extraordinary challenges facing the nation by coming together around the idea that he often mentioned on the campaign trail: that there is nothing the country can't do “when we do it together,” according to advisers to the President-elect. He will have his hand on the Biden family Bible, which has a Celtic Cross on the cover and has been a family heirloom since 1893. The President-elect has used the Bible each time he has taken an oath of office, both as a senator from Delaware and as vice president, and his son Beau Biden used the Bible when he was sworn in as attorney general of Delaware in 2007.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — who will make history Wednesday when she is sworn in as the first female, the first Black and first South Asian vice president — will be sworn in on two Bibles, that of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, one of her heroes who inspired her to pursue a career in the law, and one that belonged to Regina Shelton, a neighbour who cared for Harris and her sister Maya when they were growing up and attended church with her, where she was introduced to the teachings of the Bible. Harris has described Shelton as a “second mother to us.”
The task of the incoming president has been complicated by the fact that Trump has still not conceded the election, has impeded the transition between administrations and was consumed in his final days with planning his own departure ceremony and weighing whom to pardon. But Trump left the White House as a disgraced and diminished figure. CNN's White House team has reported that although dozens of current and former officials had been invited to the Wednesday morning farewell ceremony, many declined to attend. Pence said his final goodbyes to Trump on Tuesday.
Biden and Harris attended a service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in DC ahead of the inaugural ceremonies with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a show of unity and Biden's intent to work with leaders from both parties.