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Inauguration Day: What You Might Have Missed

By: Victoria Dozer


Kamala Harris Makes History as the United States’ First Female, Black, and Asian VP

At the January 20th inauguration, Kamala Harris made national history by becoming the first Black and first Asian American Vice President, as well as the first woman ever elected to national office. Just before being sworn into office, Harris was greeted with fist bumps from both Barack and Michelle Obama. The action symbolized the Obamas’ approval, both of whom made history as the first Black president and first lady of the United States.


Harris was sworn in at 11:42 am using two Bibles - one belonging to a close family friend, which she also used to take her oaths as California attorney general and as U.S. Senator, and the other belonging to Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black member of the Supreme Court. Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayer, the first woman of color on the Supreme Court, and who also administered Joe Biden’s vice presidential oath in 2009.


Harris wore a monochromatic purple outfit, which many speculated was a symbol for political unity; purple being the mix of Republican red and Democratic blue. The outfit was designed by two Black artists, Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson.


Rob Carr/Getty Images


Biden is Sworn in as the 46th President of the United States

Shortly after Harris’s oath, President Joe Biden was sworn in at 11:48 am. Biden also used a Bible, held by his wife Jill, and the oath was administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.

After being sworn in, the 46th president delivered his inaugural address. The speech highlighted the importance of unity, upholding a fragile democracy, rejecting lies and misinformation, and taking on the COVID-19 pandemic together. Biden quoted 16th president Abraham Lincoln and addressed American racism and white supremacy:


“Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal, and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart.”


Erin Schaff/The New York Times


Officer Eugene Goodman Escorts VP Kamala Harris

U.S. Capitol Officer Eugene Goodman made headlines in recent weeks after recordings surfaced showing him distracting violent protestors and luring them away from Senate Chambers during the January 6 riots at the US Capitol. His quick-thinking and action is credited with potentially saving the lives of numerous Senators and, as a result, Goodman has been appointed deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms. This promotion elevated Goodman to the second highest security official for the Senate at the inauguration.


The officer continued to make history as he was chosen to escort Vice President Kamala Harris into the inauguration ceremony.


Erin Schaff/The New York Times


Amanda Gorman Makes History With her Poem: “The Hill We Climb”

22-year-old Amanda Gorman, previously named the first National Youth Poet Laureate, has centered her work around issues of oppression, racial division, marginalization, feminist issues, and the African Diaspora for years. On January 20th, the Harvard graduate became the youngest inaugural poet. Her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”, preached both unity and accountability, as well as addressed the white supremacy present at the Capitol riots on January 6. The Youth Poet Laureate explained to the New York Times that her intentions with the poem were to “... use my word to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal, in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”


And Gorman did just that. Her recitation of “The Hill We Climb” was incredibly moving and highlighted the struggles of marginalized Americans, including Gorman’s own perspective as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother.” The poem powerfully ends:


“The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

if only we’re brave enough to be it”


Erin Schaff/The New York Times


During her performance, Gorman wore a ring in the shape of a caged bird, symbolic of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. The ring was a gift from Oprah Winfrey and honored Angelou as a fellow inaugural poet. Gorman certainly did Angelou justice.


Former Vice President Pence Attends; Trump Does Not

Instead of attending Donald Trump’s sendoff, former Vice President Mike Pence was present for Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. The attendance was not surprising, after numerous reports of Trump and Pence’s rift following the 2020 presidential election and Trump's rampant spread of misinformation. Trump, however, had previously tweeted that he would not be attending the inauguration, an unprecedented decision in modern history. While Pence was in attendance with his wife, Trump flew off to Florida.


Musical Appearances Include Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks

Lady Gaga wore a Schiaparelli gown and a massive dove broach for her performance of the National Anthem. The dove reportedly symbolizes unity and peace, in line with the theme of many of the inauguration speeches.


Erin Schaff/The New York Times


Despite being a registered Republican, Garth Brooks also took the stage to sing “Amazing Grace” in his signature country style. Brooks called it “an honor” to perform at the inauguration, after being personally invited by First Lady Jill Biden.


Jennifer Lopez also performed, singing a medley of American classics like “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful”. She wore a head-to-toe white Chanel outfit, similar to the monochrome outfits of Jill Biden, Michelle Obama, and others at the inauguration.


Bernie Sanders Makes News with His Mittens

While there were many notable fashion choices at the 2021 presidential inauguration, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made headlines, and was subjected to plenty of memes, for his brown coat and patterned mittens. The mittens were a gift from Jen Ellis, a second-grade teacher from Sanders’ home state. They were made from repurposed wool and gifted to Sanders in 2016, when Ellis’s daughter was in preschool. Ellis had made mittens for her daughter’s preschool teachers, the preschool coincidently being owned by Sanders’ daughter-in-law.


Now, the mittens are making national news!


Ruth Fremson/The New York Times


Kamala Harris Swears in Three Democratic Senators

Soon after the inauguration, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three first-time senators, effectively flipping control of the U.S. Senate into the Democrat's hands. Harris swore in the two Democratic senators elected in the Georgia runoffs, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, as well as her replacement in the Senate, California’s Alex Padilla. All three senators hold groundbreaking positions: Warnock and Ossoff are respectively the first Black and first Jewish senators for the state of Georgia, and Padilla will be California’s first Latino senator. Ossoff will also serve as the youngest current senator, at the age of 33.

Previously Republican dominated, the U.S. Senate will now have exactly 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Harris wields the tie-breaking vote for Senate majority leader, making Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer the first Jewish and first New York native to hold the position. For the first time since 2014, Democrats have majority control over the Senate.


Jen Psaki Conducts First Press Briefing

The new White House press secretary held the first press briefing of the Biden administration, and it was quite refreshing. Jen Psaki, a former spokesperson for the State Department and a White House communications director for the Obama administration, spoke to the press for about half an hour. She explained her intentions of upholding the position while answering questions calmly and politely. As reported by Associated Press, Psaki promised “transparency and truth” in the position. Many reporters considered this to be a much-needed change.


Doug Mills/The New York Times


Biden Virtually Swears in Administration’s Appointees

In order to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, President Joe Biden swore in hundreds of his staff members through video conference. Biden addressed his appointees from the White House, standing in front of four massive television screens. These appointees included lower- and mid-level employees and staff members that did not require Senate approval.


Biden encouraged his staff to work hard, but work “for the people”, and that the work ahead of them would not be easy. He also warned his staff, “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot,” setting very clear guidelines about his expectations for his administration.


Biden Signs Seventeen Executive Orders

Just hours after his inauguration, Biden began signing executive orders that ranged in topic from coronavirus response to undoing much of Trump’s most objectionable policies. The new president began working faster than any sitting president before him, signing seventeen executive orders within his first day.


Doug Mills/The New York Times


Biden completely stopped funding for Trump’s border wall, effectively halting its construction. The president also reversed Trump’s Executive Order 13769, the controversial travel ban commonly known as the “Muslim Ban”, which targeted peoples from predominantly Muslim countries. Biden additionally reinstated protections for DREAMers, defending against the deportation of immigrant minors, and stopped deportations for the next 100 days.


Despite Trump’s attempts to remove the United States from both international agreements, Biden began the process of re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and took steps in preventing any U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization. Addressing other climate issues, the president blocked permits for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Furthermore, Biden signed a mask mandate requiring face coverings on all federal property. And, he appointed a “coronavirus response coordinator” to supervise government distribution of vaccines and medical supplies. Both actions begin to deliver on Biden’s promises to prioritize COVID-19 relief and environmentalist policies.


The Joe Biden administration, and the hope for a new dawn in America, has officially been ushered in.



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