Here’s a rundown of events on Wednesday, January 20.
President Donald Trump’s counter-programmed farewell, around 8 am ET
Trump will not only be skipping Biden’s inauguration, he will be hosting an event of his own at Joint Andrews Base in Maryland. Details are still up in the air but invitations have gone out providing each guest with a plus five — potentially an indication of Trump’s fretting about his own crowd size. CNN has reported that Pence is not expected to join Trump at this send-off for logistical reasons, however the relationship has soured since the president publicly blamed Pence for refusing to challenge Biden’s electoral votes — a power which Pence argued he did not have.
Virtual presidential inaugural prayer service, around 10 am ET
President-elect Biden’s public day will start with a Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. It will include worship from interfaith leaders as well as artists and other voices: Bishop William J. Barber II will deliver the homily, and Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, and the Clarke Sisters will perform. Biden will be joined by congressional leadership: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Inaugural ceremonies, coverage begins 10:30 am ET
The inauguration will feature Lady Gaga performing the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez with a traditional performance, and a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, who recently made history as the first national youth poet laureate. The invocation will be led by Leo J. O’Donovan, an American Jesuit Catholic priest and the benediction by Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, the pastor of Bethel African Methodists Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware — both of these faith leaders are long time friends of the Biden family.
Biden will take his oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts and Harris will take hers from the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Post-inaugural events, around 2 pm ET
Following the inauguration, the Bidens, the Harris family, along with the Obamas, the Bushes, and the Clintons will lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Then, the traditional “Pass in Review” reflecting the transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief will occur on the east front of the Capitol building. Biden will then be escorted to the White House alongside each branch of the military.
At this point there would usually be a presidential parade; instead the inaugural committee has planned a virtual parade across America modeled off of the Democratic National Committee’s virtual roll call last summer. It will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn and feature Jon Stewart, New Radicals, and Earth Wind Fire, among others.
“Celebrating America” primetime special, 8:30 pm ET
The inaugural activities will finish with a “Celebrating America” special hosted by Actor Tom Hanks, Biden and Harris will give remarks alongside appearances from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chef José Andrés, Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Kerry Washington, among others.
The program will also feature ordinary Americans such as a UPS driver, a child who started a food and essential supplies pantry in his community, a kindergarten teacher, and the first American to receive a Covid-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
What to expect in the events
Biden has signaled very clearly throughout his campaign and transition that he hopes to focus on the twin themes of American unity and “Build Back Better,” his campaign slogan.
He has recently released a $1.9 trillion relief plan which Vox’s Emily Stewart explained is “a big deal ... more than double the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Democrats passed in 2009 in the wake of the Great Recession.” Biden has been signaling a desire to take advantage of historically low interest rates to revitalize the economy by spending big early in his term. Encouraging Congress to act quickly on his proposal could play a large role in his remarks, especially as the Trump impeachment proceedings threaten to overshadow his priorities.
“Frankly, I think President-elect Biden has been doing exactly what he needs to do, which is being presidential,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) told Vox. “I think one of the most important ways to unite our country right now is to address the pandemic that is surging while we’re all focusing on the insurrection last week.”
Biden has certainly made Covid-19 and its toll a focus of his inaugural activities. On Tuesday, he held a “Nationwide Covid-19 Memorial” to “remember and honor the lives lost to Covid-19 in cities and towns across the country” on Tuesday.
It’s still a question how many lawmakers will be attending the inauguration (either for political reasons, worries over Covid-19 transmission, or the threat of another attack) but several lawmakers Vox spoke with said they would be in attendance. The presence of up to 25,000 National Guard troops will likely ease fears of at least the third consideration.
“That’s something I certainly intend to be here for, and recognize the peaceful transfer of power,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told Vox. Sens. Ted Cruz, Roger Marshall, Josh Hawley, Tommy Tuberville who all objected to the legitimacy of some of Biden’s electoral college votes in the Capitol last week will all be in attendance according to reporting by Fox. House and Senate GOP leadership have also confirmed that they will be in attendance.
Democrats have had to seriously ramp up their virtual hosting chops in the last year — they abandoned a lot of face-to-face campaigning for the sake of safety (to uncertain success) and hosted a virtual convention (to much more certain success.
“We are modeling our inauguration after our national convention,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) told Vox. “We’ve hired the same people to put that together to put this one together. It was very effective I thought. The virtual roll call worked famously and people loved it.”
simon sarwuan 2 years ago