DemDaily: Celebrating History. The 59th Inauguration

January 21, 2021

Joseph Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, proclaiming, "This is democracy's day. A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages."

It was a hard-fought day of reward for a country and a new president that can now gratefully turn to the business of healing, rebuilding and "uniting a nation."

In the historic ceremonies that also inaugurated Kamala Harris as the country's first female, first African American and first South Asian vice president, the theme of "Unity" rang throughout the day.

Klobuchar: High marks as MC

While the inauguration itself was significantly scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the performances and tributes more than compensated for an audience hungry to share in the celebration.

Swearing in Ceremonies
West Front of the US Capitol

11:11am: Opening Remarks
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the senior Democrat on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), proved a worthy mistress of ceremonies.

Lady Gaga: Click to Listen! (New York Times)

"Now it falls on all of us, not just the two leaders we are inaugurating today, to take up the torch of our democracy, not as a weapon of political arson, but as an instrument of good," said the Minnesota Senator.

Following the Invocation by Father Leo J. O'Donovan, award-winning artist, activist and performer Lady Gaga belted out a stunning rendition of the National Anthem that visibly brought many to tears.

11:41pm Swearing-In of Vice President Kamala Harris

Harris Making History. Click to Watch!

After the Pledge of Allegiance was eloquently recited by Georgia Fire Captain and local IAFF President Andrea Hall, Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.

In perhaps the most historic moment of the day, Harris, with Second Gentlemen Douglas Emhoff by her side, was sworn in by the US Supreme Court's first Hispanic Justice, Sonia Sotomayor.

Lopez: "Let's get loud...for our next president and vice president of the United States." Click to Listen! (USAToday)

Award-winning singer, dancer and producer Jennifer Lopez launched into a moving melody of patriotic songs, beginning with This Land Is Your Land, and transitioning into America the Beautiful.

With characteristic flair, Lopez punctuated the performance with a shoutout in Spanish, saying, "Una nación, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos," reciting a part of the Pledge of Allegiance: "One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

The 46th President. Click to Watch Address (Rob Carr)

11:48am: Swearing-In of President Joseph Biden
With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Joseph Robinette Biden was sworn in by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as our 46th President of the United States.

The surreal and powerful nature of the moment was not lost as Biden delivered his 21-minute Inaugural Address against the backdrop of the West side of the US Capitol, which two weeks earlier had been seized by hundreds of violent pro-Trump rioters trying to block final ratification of Biden's victory.

"America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded. We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed." - President Joseph Biden

Country music star Garth Brooks performed after Biden's speech, calling on the crowd at one point to join him in singing an emotional last verse of Amazing Grace.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. Click to Listen! (Patrick Semansky/AFP)

12:18pm: It was National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's powerful reading, however, that stole the show and the hearts of a nation with her poem, The Hill We Climb.

"We've seen a force that would shatter
our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated." - Amanda Gorman

The Benediction by Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman ended the outdoor ceremonies, which were then followed by a presentation of gifts to the President and VP by congressional leaders.

1:24 pm: Biden, in one of his first acts as President, signed The Inauguration Day Proclamation and documents nominating his Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions. Later in the afternoon Biden would sign 17 executive orders reversing the major policy initiatives of the Trump administration.

The Obamas, Bushs and Clintons joined Biden and Harris at Arlington Cemetary (MSNBC)

2:40pm: After the traditional Pass in Review of the military ceremony on the East side of the Capitol, the President and Vice President, accompanied by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their spouses, traveled to Arlington Cemetery for the Wreath Laying Ceremony.

3:45pm: Under Presidential Escort, Joe and Jill Biden, and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, took a symbolic walk from 15th Street, NW to the White House, and the doors of their new administration.

The voices and faces of Parade Across America. Click to Watch!

4:00pm: The Virtual Parade Across America, like the Convention's virtual roll call, was a treat, with a broad diversity of performers, athletes, bands, dancers, guests and the voices of everyday Americans, reflecting the diverse coalition of citizens that sent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House yesterday.

Hosted by Tony Goldwyn, celebrity appearances included Jon Stewart, the New Radicals, Earth, Wind & Fire and, and Andra Day. The highlight, however, was the energetic finale featuring a "Dance Across America," by citizens of all ages and backgrounds across the country.

4:30pm: Vice President Kamala Harris, as President of the Senate, swore in three new Senators, cementing Democrats' narrow majority in the US Senate. She administered the oath to newly-elected Senators Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D) from Georgia, and to the newly-appointed Senator from California, Alex Padilla (D), who is filling Harris' seat.

Celebrating America
8:30pm-10:00pm EST
The truly star-studded, well-executed production of "Celebrating America," achieved its goal of inspiring its viewers with compelling performances, sincere stories and somber tributes to Americans we have lost, while celebrating our frontline workers and heroes.

(David J. Phillip)

Hosted by Tom Hanks in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, performances included Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, the Black Pumas and a duet by country artists Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw, among other entertainers.

Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chef José Andrés and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta were also were among the appearances, along with an uplifting performance from Broadway stars singing "Rent" anthem "525,600 Minutes" that segued into a singalong of "Let the Sun Shine In."

Katy Perry closed out the night singing her smash hit "Firework" to a pyrotechnic real-life display of fireworks that lit up the Washington, DC skyline -- celebrating the hopes of a new administration.

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Kimberly Scott

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