Joe Biden took his oath of office Wednesday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the same spot where a mob staged a riot two weeks earlier to try to prevent him from becoming the 46th president.
In his inaugural address, 78 year old framed his remarks around the attempted insurrection but said that “democracy has prevailed.”
“On this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries,” he said.
Biden thanked his predecessors — former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — who attended the inauguration, and Jimmy Carter, who due to health concerns did not make the trip to Washington. Left off that list was former President Donald Trump, who broke precedent by skipping the event after months of falsely claiming his defeat in the 2020 election was due to fraud.
Trump’s absence was far from the only anomaly. Just out of view, approximately 20,000 U.S. National Guard troops were deployed in the aftermath of the pro-Trump siege of the Capitol, and barriers were erected to protect the inauguration ceremony, the memorials at the National Mall and much of downtown Washington. National Guard soldiers lined the streets for miles, a testament to the turmoil and uncertainty inflicted on the capital by the aggrieved supporters of Trump.
Due to the heightened security measures in the wake of the Capitol siege, as well as safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, only approximately 1,000 people attended the inauguration, a marked drop from the 1.8 million who turned out to see Obama take the oath of office in 2009, or the estimated 600,000 who attended Trump’s 2017 inauguration
Protesters were also notably absent, despite warnings from the FBI and the Justice Department that unrest was possible, if not likely, in the coming days.
In his speech, Biden singled out “the rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”
To do so, he said, would require “the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”
Quoting Abraham Lincoln, who when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation said his “whole soul” was in it, Biden declared that he held a similar resolve when it came to bringing the country together now.
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people,
uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said.
The inauguration was attended by numerous Republican lawmakers. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, who narrowly escaped the Capitol riot, was also present, opting to skip his former boss’s farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews earlier in the day.
Lady Gaga, an ardent Biden supporter throughout the campaign, delivered a soaring rendition of the national anthem.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office to Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman and the first African American and Indian American to become vice president.
Moments after she was sworn in on two Bibles — including one that belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice — Harris’s staff posted a tweet to mark the occasion.
Chief Justice John Roberts, using a Biden family Bible, administered the oath of office to the new president. “Congratulations, Mr. President,” Roberts said after he had finished the oath.