Joe Biden is to be sworn in as US president, taking the helm of a nation wracked by political division, economic anguish and an unrelenting pandemic.
Alongside him, Kamala Harris will make history when she is sworn in as the nation’s first female vice-president.
The 59th inauguration of a US President will feature Biden’s first presidential address, as he starts his term aiming to unite an increasingly divided country all while the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
The ceremony will begin with remarks from Father Leo J. O’Donovan, a longtime friend of the Biden family and former president of Georgetown University, and wrap up with a benediction from Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, also a close confidante of the Bidens.
Singers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez are expected to perform. Former US Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton are due to be in attendance, along with the former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton.
Due to Covid-19, major political events have been reimagined as a mix of virtual and in-person activities. America’s Inauguration Day in 2021 will be no different. The festivities typically attract hundreds of thousands of people who flock to Washington, DC, to witness the historic transition of power. This year only about 2,000 attendees will be permitted. Biden’s inaugural committee has installed around 200,000 American flags across the National Mall to “represent the American people who are unable to travel” to the city. The traditional parade will also be shifted
In another break with tradition, outgoing US President Donald Trump has said he won’t be at the inauguration. Trump is the first outgoing president since 1869 to refuse to attend his successor’s swearing-in.
Later in the night, Biden and Harris will address the US in a televised special titled “Celebrating America,” which will begin at 20:30 SA time. The 90-minute primetime program will be hosted by actor Tom Hanks and feature performances by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, Foo Fighters, John Legend, and Bruce Springsteen.
It will be available to stream on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch. Amazon Prime Video and Microsoft Bing will also carry live coverage of the program.
The inauguration is part of a five-day programme that comprises both online and socially-distanced in-person events under the theme of “America United.”
“This inauguration presents a unique opportunity to spotlight the resilience and spirit of an America United,” Presidential Inaugural Committee CEO Tony Allen said in a statement.
Other inaugural activities that took place earlier in the week include a “We the People” virtual concert on January 17, a “national day of service” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 18, and a “Covid-19 memorial to lives lost” on January 19.
Federal and city officials have said that they are tightening security measures in the American capital amid possible threats of violence following the deadly Capitol riots.
Biden’s transition team has said that they are receiving daily briefings on security and logistics ahead of the inauguration to help ensure a smooth and safe transfer of power.
Main Image: Mother Jones