Thousands of people tuned in to watch the 59th presidential inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as Biden uses his inaugural address to ask Americans to unite.
Although there were no massive crowds of people present like previous inaugurations, about 1,000 people attended while socially distancing. Among those was former Vice President Mike Pence and former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush, who were accompanied by their wives.
“I think the past presidents attending really legitimizes his presidency, it shows that they have faith in him,” said Victoria Meeks, a sophomore in pre-industrial design and communication director of Iowa State College Democrats. “And because these are presidents that many Americans may remember quite fondly, I think it’s very reassuring for some Americans.”
The event began traditionally with prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and the signing of the National Anthem.
Lady Gaga, who campaigned for Biden in 2020, sang the National Anthem.
Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, said the celebrities and performers were chose to help signify the diversity of America.
Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks performed later at the event.
Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Sotomayor administered the oath to Biden as vice president in 2013.
“When you think of [Harris and Sotomayor] together, they really demonstrate the diversity of the country,” Kedrowski said. “You have two women in high-ranking positions, Sotomayor being the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court and Harris the first woman, first African American and the first Asian American ever to serve in the Executive Office."
As tradition, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Biden. Biden took the oath on his 127-year-old family bible, which was held by his wife, Jill Biden.
In Biden’s speech, he talked about the peaceful transfer of power after violent riots took place where he was standing only two weeks ago.
Biden thanked his predecessors of both parties that were present and those who were not.
Kedrowski said it is important that previous presidents were present at the event.
“It’s important to recognize the legitimacy of [Biden’s] election, and it is also very important in terms of participating in the hallmarks of a healthy democracy,” Kedrowski said.
As the theme for the inauguration was “America United,” Biden’s speech was structured around unity and bringing America together.
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said.
Biden called for Americans to join together and fight against “hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence and disease.”
As Biden said countless times throughout his campaign, he will be a president for all Americans, even those who did not vote for him.
“I will be a president for all Americans, all Americans, and I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not vote for me, as for those who did,” Biden said.
Biden pleaded for Americans to put their biases aside and unite together.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” Biden said.
In regards to Biden's inauguration, Ryan Hurley, president of the Iowa State College Republicans, said, “We would like to thank President [Donald] Trump for his incredible four years in office. We do hope that President Biden understands [that] 74 million Americans back President Trump.”
During his speech, Biden called for a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think America has been dividing itself since 2015 … so I think that [Biden’s] message is a greatly needed one,” Meeks said. “I think the message and the philosophy behind the idea of 'let’s just out all our problems away, we have a crisis right now that we need to deal with,' I think that’s a really great note to start his presidency off with.”
After Biden’s speech, American poet Amanda Gorman took the stage and performed her poem “The Hill We Climb.”
“I was particularly impressed by [Gorman], I really enjoyed her performance and I think it was really emblematic of how a lot of Americans feel right now,” Meeks said.
Ann Lent, senior in political science, said she thinks the most important part of the inauguration was Biden’s address.
“I think it was written well and was able to show how important it is to be bipartisan,” Lent said. “Real unity happens when we come together.”
Following the swearing-in, Biden and Harris partook in a Pass and Review, a military tradition which signifies a peaceful transition of power to a new commander in chief.
After the review, Biden and Harris traveled to Arlington Cemetery with the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As one of Biden’s first acts as president, he signed executive actions, many of which that undid executive actions Trump had signed.
“[Biden] is going to use a number of executive orders in terms of overturning some of President Trump’s most divisive and controversial policies and reinstate much of the Obama-Biden agenda,” Kedrowski said.
Some of the executive orders include, extending the pause on student loans, rejoin the Paris Agreement and more.
“A bulk of the executive orders being signed should positively impact those who voted for Biden,” said Mack Shelley Iowa State University chairman and professor of political science. “This is a way for him to repay those who supported him.”
The inauguration marked the first day of Biden’s office and he has said numerous times that he has extensive plans for his first 100 days in office.
Biden plans to begin stricter mask mandates, get 100 million vaccines to Americans, pass an economic relief plan and fight against racial inequality.
Biden may have a harder time his plans accomplished since most will require Congress, Shelley said.
Unlike some of Biden’s first 100 day plans, the executive orders will be able to make some headway without Congress.
“Executive orders only survive as long as that president is in office or if a like minded president comes along,” Shelley said.