Inauguration 101: What you need to know about Day 1 of the Biden presidency

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden’s an election rally, after news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Wilmington, Delaware
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and Democratic 2020 U.S. vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband Doug, celebrate at their election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will officially take office tomorrow, Jan. 20, on the western side of the U.S. Capitol in an inaugural ceremony tamped down by the COVID-19 pandemic and in a state of alert following the Jan. 6 attack upon the heart of American democracy.

The Biden-Harris term begins at noon on Jan. 20, the official end of the era for outgoing President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, whom Biden and Harris defeated in last November’s election.

Since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, instigated by Trump and carried out by thousands of his supporters, much of Washington, DC has come to resemble a war zone. Tens of thousands of National Guard troops are now stationed in the city to ensure the transition of power from the Trump regime to the Biden administration, and to prevent another attack by insurrectionists.

Aside from a few distinguished guests, including members of Congress, the Supreme Court, former presidents, and the Biden and Harris families, there won’t be very many spectators in attendance to witness the Inaugural Ceremony — as crowd size is severely restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the ceremony, which will begin late morning Wednesday, will feature the pomp, circumstance and tradition of inaugurations past.

The program will feature New York natives Lady Gaga, who will sing the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez, who will provide a musical performance. Speakers will also include Georgia firefighter Andrea Hall and 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles. 

Father Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, and Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church will offer prayers. 

At about noon, Biden and Harris will take their oaths. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Bronx will administer the oath to Vice President-elect Harris, who will become the first woman ever to hold the office.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will then administer the oath of office to President-elect Biden. America’s new president will then deliver his inaugural address; according to published reports, Biden and his staff are preparing an address focused on national unity in reflecting the ceremony’s theme, “America United.” 

I do solemnly swear 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.

Presidential Oath of Office

Thereafter, the new president and vice president, along with new First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, will participate in another inaugural custom on the East side of the Capitol: the Pass in Review, in which they’ll review members of the military to reflect the transfer of power. The Bidens, Harris and Emhoff will then head over to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The new president will then be escorted to the White House; there won’t be an in-person inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue this time due to COVID-19. Instead, a virtual “Parade Across America” will take place on Wednesday afternoon at about 3:15 p.m., featuring performances from all 56 states and territories within the United States.

In lieu of the traditional Inaugural Ball, also scrapped due to COVID-19, the Inauguration Day festivities will conclude with a prime-time special, “Celebrating America,” at 8:30 p.m. hosted by actor Tom Hanks. Both Biden and Harris will provide remarks during the program, which will feature an array of appearances and performances by actors and artists including Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Kerry Washington.

For those wondering about the outgoing president, Trump will not attend Biden’s inauguration; he’ll be leaving for his Florida home earlier on Wednesday morning. Outgoing Vice President Pence, however, will be present for the inaugural ceremony.