Why Biden inauguration was a landmark day in political history of US

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jan 21, 2021, 01:16 AM(IST)

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Photograph:( AFP )

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Biden, 78, has become the oldest US president in history. And this is only one of the many firsts the ceremony will boast of for generations to come.

Joe Biden took office as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. At a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, Biden assumed the helm of a country beset by deep political divides and battered by a raging coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, 78, has become the oldest US president in history. And this is only one of the many firsts the ceremony will boast of for generations to come.

For Biden, who long harboured presidential ambitions, the inauguration was the zenith of a five-decade career in public service that included more than three decades in the US Senate and two terms as vice-president under former president Barack Obama.

Biden is the first and likely to be the only Silent Generation president. He is the first president to be born between 1928 and 1945. In other words, Biden is the first president to be born before the end of World War II in almost 30 years. Every president starting with Bill Clinton is a member of the Baby Boomer generation. 

Every president from John F Kennedy to George HW Bush was born between 1901 and 1927 (i.e. the Greatest Generation).  

Biden succeeded where other members of the Silent Generation (e.g. Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale and John McCain) had failed before him. 

Also read | Joe Biden sworn in as 46th President of United States

The ceremony unfolded in front of a heavily fortified US Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that November’s election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes. The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time.

The ceremony was hence itself a herculean task to be accomplished. Thousands of National Guard troops were called into the city after the siege, which left five people dead and briefly forced lawmakers into hiding.

Also read | Kamala Harris breaks barriers as America's first Black, South Asian woman Vice President

Instead of a throng of supporters, the National Mall was covered by nearly 200,000 flags and 56 pillars of light meant to represent people from US states and territories.

Biden, who had vowed to “restore the soul of America,” called for American unity at a time of crisis in his inaugural address. He possibly became the first president of the nation to mention racism and White supremacy in his inaugural address.

He said the United States must confront and defeat the rise of white supremacy and domestic extremism, adding, "I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonisation have long torn us apart."

The norm-defying Trump flouted one last convention on his way out of the White House when he refused to meet with Biden or attend his successor’s inauguration, breaking with a political tradition seen as affirming the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump, who never conceded the November 3 election, did not mention Biden by name in his final remarks as president on Wednesday morning, when he touted his administration’s record and promised to be back “in some form.” He then boarded Air Force One for the last time and flew to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

A day of many firsts: Highlights from US presidential inauguration

Vice-President Mike Pence, former US presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and both McCarthy and McConnell all however attended Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

President Joe Biden took a moment to jog over to a press area, while he was walking to the White House, and fist bumped a member of the press, according to CNN. "Keep doing what you're doing," Biden said.

Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice-president after she was sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.

A US senator from California the past four years, Harris has shattered many a glass ceiling. She served as San Francisco’s first female district attorney and was California’s first woman of color to be elected attorney general.

As the Senate’s only Black woman, Harris emerged as a leading voice on racial justice and police reform after Minneapolis police killed African-American man George Floyd in May. She marched with protesters on the streets of Washington and won over some liberal skeptics.

There are obvious differences between Biden and Harris -- when it comes to race and gender, but it’s really worth thinking how similar their journeys have been.

Biden has waited forever for this moment. He first ran for president more than 30 years ago. He was first elected to the Senate nearly 50 years ago. 

Harris’ trek to the vice presidency was much shorter in political life. But her scale of achievement has been no less.

Usually, presidents choose vice-presidents who have more experience than they do. But Biden chose a younger, Black woman.

Asked on the CBS programme “60 Minutes” last year why, given Biden’s age, he believed Harris would be ready to step into the presidency if something happened to him, Biden rapidly fired off five reasons.

“Number one, her values. Number two, she is smart as a devil, and number three, she has a backbone like a ramrod. Number four, she is really principled. And number five, she has had significant experience in the largest state in the union in running the justice department that’s only second in size to the United States Justice Department. And obviously, I hope that never becomes a question,” Biden said.

Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downtown, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.

Biden will waste little time trying to turn the page on the Trump era, signing 15 executive actions on Wednesday on issues ranging from the pandemic to the economy to climate change.

The orders include mandating masks on federal property, rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending Trump’s travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

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