Biden, Harris ready for historic inauguration

The 2021 Inauguration of President-elect Joe R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will “blend the old with the new” with most festivities scaled back to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand has announced.

The U.S. Embassy in New Zealand oversees the U.S. Embassy in Samoa. 

Chargé d'Affaires Jon Yoo told the Samoa Observer that Inauguration Day is a holiday in the U.S. but for the local staff it is a regular working day.

Unlike Ambassador Scott Brown, who left his post in New Zealand several weeks ago, Mr. Yoo was not appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The incoming administration has been "fully engaged" with the transition from the Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence to Biden and Harris, he noted.   

In a statement about the inauguration of the President of the United States, the Embassy in New Zealand explains that every four years, the American president is sworn in on January 20 in Washington D.C. 'before big crowds." 

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebrations have changed and the public has been asked to watch the ceremonies from home.

The 2021 inauguration theme is “America United” and organisers have leveraged social media and virtual options to help people participate. 

The Presidential Inaugural Committee says the event will feature videos of people holding up signs with their messages for the changeover of power, for example.

Biden and Kamala D. Harris, the country’s first female vice president, will take their oaths of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building, as have earlier presidents and vice presidents, but before a small crowd, the U.S. government explains.

“Presidents typically throw in concerts, parades and balls to create several days’ worth of festivities around their inaugurations. But as Joseph R. Biden Jr. becomes the 46th president of the United States on January 20, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds will be replaced by American flags fluttering on the National Mall,” according to the statement.

“Instead of the usual lineup of marching bands, there will be a virtual parade to include performers from around the country. Authorities have scaled back the festivities to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has meant that big galas are canceled this time.”

Still, Biden’s inauguration will include some time-honored features as well as creative re-imaginings of past events, the U.S. government said.

 “Instead of giving out 200,000 tickets to members of Congress and others to distribute, organizers provided each lawmaker with a ticket for himself or herself and a guest.”

“The inaugural activities will reflect our shared values and serve as a reminder that we are stronger together than we are apart, just as our motto, ‘E pluribus unum,’ reminds us — out of many one,’ ” said Tony Allen, head of the Inaugural Committee.

 Biden has accepted the offer by the U.S. Department of State to stay at the historic Blair House, the guest house of the White House, on the eve of the inauguration.

At the swearing-in ceremony, the Reverend Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, will give the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. 

There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by the Reverend Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, and singer Jennifer Lopez will perform on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. 

Other American singers expected to perform include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.

In the evening, actor Tom Hanks will host a television special celebrating Biden’s inauguration.

And what about those tickets not handed out? Nearly 200,000 flags have been planted on the National Mall (a park which extends west from the Capitol) to represent the citizens who can’t attend because of COVID-19.

Biden will take over his job as commander-in-chief, shortly after the ceremony with a pass in review of military troops and then will be escorted by military bands and honor guards as he makes his way to the White House.

Before settling in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Biden, his wife Jill, Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. 

They will be joined there by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives.

Stephen Hess, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, has seen many inaugurations come and go in Washington, and he plans to pay close attention to Biden’s speech.

“Inaugurations in a democracy are quite a wonderful event,” Hess said, and the new president’s speech is an important inflection point. 

“It’s a speech in which the president stops being a candidate and starts being president. He stops having a constituency of his voters and starts having a constituency of all Americans.”

The vice-president-elect is sworn in first, and repeats the same oath of office, in use since 1884, as senators, representatives, and other federal employees:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Around noon, the President-elect recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The inauguration is planned by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (J.C.C.I.C.).  

Biden and Harris arrived in Washington D.C. on Wednesday evening where they hosted a memorial to honour the 400,000 Americans they say have died from COVID-19.

The funeral bell at the Washington National Cathedral was tolled 400 times for every 1,000 Americans whose lives were claimed by COVID-19.

The inauguration is scheduled to begin with a National Prayer Service for the 59th Presidential Inauguration.

For viewers in Samoa, the inauguration starts at 7am (local time) on Thursday, 21 January and can be viewed on the internet through the various livestream services of major U.S. news networks.  


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