America Takes a Step Towards True Greatness

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

The Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States

January 20th is a day that Americans, nationwide, anticipate with baited breath. Some of us chewed our fingernails in fear that an attack, much like the one we saw on January 6th, would take place again. Some were solemn and sad about another transfer of power. And still others, could not contain the excitement that a new and promising administration brings. Every four years, political figures, military personnel, and American citizens gather on Capitol Hill, to watch a President be sworn in for their first term, or sometimes their second term. On the 20th of January 2021, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris and President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. were sworn in as the 46th Vice President and President of the United States. 

Regardless of party affiliation, this was a historic day for Americans, for several reasons. Of course, most are aware that this inauguration was the first time in history that a woman was sworn in as Vice President. Vice President Kamala Harris is also the first African American and South Asian person to ever be sworn in as Vice President. To be both a woman and a person of color, is monumental for POC women worldwide. Little girls and boys, with fair skin or skin full of melanin, watched the inauguration with hope in their eyes. Knowing that now more than ever, their dreams of being the next President or Vice President of the United States of America, are closer than they may think. 

The Transfer of Power

Throughout the years there have been many beloved inaugural traditions. One of those traditions is the transition of power. This is where the current administration sends their well wishes to the new administration. This has happened every four years, fairly consistently. During this exchange the President and Vice President and the President-elect and Vice President-elect put their differences aside and peacefully transfer power. This year, however, former President Donald J. Trump made the decision not to attend the 2021 Inauguration.

According to a New York Times article, Trump Is Not the First President to Snub an Inauguration, the only other Presidents to ever skip the inauguration of the President that succeeded them is John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson. Andrew Johnson was the last President to skip an inauguration, back in 1869, when he skipped the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant. It has been 152 years since a President has broken this tradition. However, it’s not surprising as former President Trump was never much of a traditionalist.

In spite of the former President’s absence, former President’s George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama came together to speak on the importance of the transfer of power and offer their support and well wishes to President Joe Biden. Bush declared, “I’m pulling for your success. Your success is our country’s success.” This sentiment of deference and putting aside party differences and ideological disagreements with grace was a central theme of the day.

The Air on Capitol Hill

But while deference was the theme, tensions were still high. After the terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, and with the ongoing pandemic, this year’s inauguration looked a little different. This year Park Police and National Guard did not allow for the thousands of supporters and American citizens to stand and observe this historical moment. However, there was no shortage of political figures present. Congressman and congresswomen, senators from several states, and former presidential families such as the Obama’s, Clintons, and Bush’s. Even former Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance along with his wife, Karen Pence. They exchanged a few words and laughed with the new Madame Vice President and her husband. Eugene Goodman, the man that single handedly helped to save members of Congress on January 6th was Madame Vice President’s personal security. Other prominent political figures such as Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, and Elizabeth Warren, were also all in attendance.

The Inauguration, although grand, is not a very long service. It began with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar making the opening remarks. Throughout the service, Senator Klobuchar introduced speakers and guests. She then handed it over to a colleague of hers, Senator Roy Blunt who is the Chair of the Inaugural Committee. The ceremony followed the traditional program. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, Reverend Father Leo Jeremiah O’Donovan lll gave some encouraging words and a prayer, the president of international association of fire fighters, fire captain Andrea M Hall recited the pledge of allegiance and much more. But there were also few subtle, non traditional changes. The woman that recited the pledge, also signed it in ASL. Vice President Harris was sworn in by the first Latina to ever serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But possibly most noteworthy of all, the nation’s first youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, recited an original piece. 

“The Hill We Climb”

The youngest American to perform for the inauguration, this 23-year-old poet is arguable the most talked about aspect of the day. Second, of course, to Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s flawless ensemble. Amanda Gorman is a 23 year old American poet from Los Angeles, California. A Harvard student who mainly writes and recites poetry surrounding oppression, feminism, and the African diaspora, Gorman spoke to American’s hearts and their hopes. This young black woman with beautiful ebony skin, dressed in an eye catching shade of canary yellow, and wearing her long twists in an elegant updo, so eloquently captivated the attention of her audience with her timely and poetic message.

In her poem “The Hill We Climb” Amanda Gorman spoke about what America has become in the past four years, and the job ahead of us as American citizens. She acknowledges the destruction, but makes a call to action. At one point she says, “if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and changes our children’s birthright.” Using rhetoric that mesmerized her audience, Gorman encouraged us forward, particularly with lines like, “But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.” It was truly a beautiful addition to the ceremony.

President Joe Biden

After President Joe Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th President, by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts, he gave his first presidential address. In his first address to the American people, as the new leader of the free world, we heard a side of America that we haven’t heard for the past four years. President Joe Biden loosely references to the Trump administration, but really focuses on the rebuilding that we all must participate in going forth. President Biden says that democracy has prevailed this time. He doesn’t shy away from addressing the fact that systemic racism is real and that it is one of prominent plagues facing this country today.

President Joe Biden (center), with Vice President Kamala Harris (right), as he signs three documents including an Inauguration declaration, cabinet nominations and sub-cabinet nominations on Wednesday. | CREDIT: JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK

He also acknowledges the devastation that the Covid 19 pandemic has brought on all of us calling for a moment of silence for all the lives that were lost. In his speech, President Biden was also not afraid to talk about the attack on the capitol on January 6th. “They cannot drive us from this sacred ground” he says at one point, with power in his voice and hope in his eyes. His speech is proof that there has been another America, all along. An America that still believes in celebrating our differences and loving one another through tough times. He urges us all, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, to work together. “Disagreements do not have to equal war” he told the American people.

A Tale of Two Americas

The U.S. Capitol on Thursday.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images

It was an emotional speech to listen to for many. For so many years the world witnessed a different and drastic shift in America under the Trump administration. To be clear, the Trump administration did not change America, but it certainly exposed this country for what it truly has been at its core. Based on the speeches of the day, the Biden administration has hopes of restoring the core values that we all were once taught to believe America was founded on.

One notable moment towards the end of President Biden’s speech was his address to Republicans and others who did not support him. He asked them to hear him out, listen to what he had to say, and if they still did not agree, that was fully within their right. President Biden said, “That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peacefully.” 

Although the Biden/Harris administration seems promising, and greatly reflects what a lot of people want to see America become again, there is much work to do. It is the job of the citizens, who elected our 46th President and Vice President, to hold them up to a high standard. In our country, where for the past four years greatness was promised, but all that was received was anger, disharmony, and injustice, we must ensure this next era brings about true greatness. It is our personal duty, to remind them what they promised, and to make sure that we put down a strong foundation to begin rebuilding.

President Biden and Vice President Harris are a breath of fresh air, but if they fall short, we must hold them accountable and help them get back up on their feet. We must do our part by making sure we are creating the America that we want to see. No one knows what the next four years will hold. We are sure there will be ups and downs. But on January 20, 2021 America took a step in the right direction and together we will continue to grow, love one another, and rebuild, one step at a time. 

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