Reflections on the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden


Jessica Pelter, Staff Writer

In a day that is historically full of pomp and circumstance, the presidential inauguration of Joseph R. Biden looked drastically different. One would expect the day’s festivities to be filled with thousands of Americans covering the West Lawn to view the Oath of Office ceremony or lining the streets to cheer on the inaugural parade.

Instead, due to a raging pandemic and a strong military presence nearly two weeks after the president’s predecessor staged an attempted coup at the Capitol, some modifications for the ushering in of a new administration were a necessity. Nonetheless, the powerful history-making ceremony went off without a hitch.

Despite threats of potential violence in a country that hasn’t been more divided since the Civil War, the theme of “America United” was strong and defiantly weaved throughout every moment. President Biden, who is no stranger to governing through adversity, began his career 48 years ago as the nation’s youngest senator when he became a widower and single father. It seems that Biden was meant to lead during a time when the United States needed him most. His political career reached its full circle moment, with him finally attaining his lifelong dream of becoming the president during one of the country’s most turbulent times.

The inauguration began with an Invocation delivered by Father Leo J. O’Donovan, who recited a prayer that addressed the country’s shortcomings of loving our neighbors, calling out today’s version of “American patriotism,” and encouraging peace and reconciliation. Father O’Donovan has a connection to the Biden family, as he was the main celebrant presiding over the President’s son, Beau’s funeral.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar followed, welcoming attendees and viewers. Sen. Klobuchar reflected on the events at the U.S. Capitol two weeks prior but reminded everyone of the strength of American democracy, stating “This is the day when America picks itself up, brushes off the dust and does what America does, goes forward as a nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…We pledge today to never take our democracy for granted as we celebrate its remarkable strength. We celebrate its resilience, its grit.”

Patriotic musical and spoken performances were punctuated throughout with Lady Gaga performing the National Anthem, firefighter Andrea Hall speaking and signing the pledge of allegiance, and Jennifer Lopez singing “This Land Is Your Land.” Garth Brooks was the final performance of the event, singing “Amazing Grace,” encouraging ceremony attendees and viewers at home to sing along in a moment of unification.

One of the most notable moments was when National Youth Poet Laureate and youngest inaugural poet, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman read “The Hill We Climb.” A poem encouraging unity entwined with themes of racial justice. She was halfway through writing the piece when news broke of the insurrection and felt that the moment should be addressed rather than overlooked. During the reading, Gorman wore a caged bird ring, gifted to her by Oprah Winfrey, as a tribute to previous inaugural poet Maya Angelou who read at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

In one of many history-making moments of the event, the first Hispanic Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor conducted the Oath of Office, swearing in the first female, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President, Kamala Harris. The Biden family surrounded their patriarch as Chief Justice Robert’s administered the presidential oath for President Biden. Sen. Klobachar introduced the 46th President declaring it “a moment we have all been waiting for’ while First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, squeezed his shoulders.

The President delivered his inaugural address continuing the call for the end to the divisiveness, thanking his predecessors from both sides of the aisle and speaking on the strength of the nation. Biden reminded everyone of the challenges that still lay ahead, stating, “We have much to do in this winter of peril.” Biden spoke of the challenges ahead with jobs lost, a reckoning to face with racial injustice and white supremacy and the pandemic. He encouraged Americans to work together, pleading, “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity. We have never failed when we acted together.” He vowed his dedication as well saying, “My whole soul is in it, in bringing America together.”

The ceremony concluded with a benediction from Delaware pastor and Biden family friend, Rev. Sylvester Beamon. Rev Beamon closed with another blessing for unity, saying “We will make friends with our enemies. We will lie down in peace, not make our neighbors afraid” and made multiple references to America’s multicultural contributions.

How quickly Americans move past this troubling time remains to be seen, but some seem hopeful about what the new administration will be able to accomplish.

“I’m excited about the inauguration of Joe Biden,” said Jeanette Falotico, a 55-year-old journalism major at Brookdale College. “We had a wide range of candidates vying to be the 46th president. I believe he’s a kind and capable individual, and he’s what we need to lead our post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Others feel that while the new administration will be a new beginning after what some feel was a difficult four years, that there is potential for certain issues to finally be addressed, but with a delay due to the focus on the extreme divisive climate in the country.

“President Biden’s inauguration is a restoration of leadership and integrity,” said Christelle Beauvais, 27, who is pursuing a Master of Information at Rutgers University. “I do believe that this administration will have an emphasis on uniting the country and this initial focus does create the possibility of certain issues such as healthcare, COVID, and systemic racism to be delayed.”

At the very least, there seems to be a low bar level of excitement to be leaving “unprecedented times” and having the focus back on addressing the laundry list of needs for many Americans.

John Pelter, a 37-year-old who is pursuing a master’s degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Kean University said, “I look forward to the change in attitude on so many things from the previous administration. I look forward to witnessing and criticizing a more traditional presidency. I hope he is able to relieve student and medical debt, provide more comprehensive healthcare for all Americans, legalize marijuana federally, eliminate criminal charges for those who have been convicted, reallocate a bulk of our military budget to fund state and local social programs and make it fiscally possible for all people to enjoy what life has to offer outside of work.”

There remains a lot of work to be done, and luckily, the president has already begun on day one.