On January 20th, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America. Once inaugurated, he will be, at 78 years and 61 days old, the oldest President to date. His Vice President, the former Senator Kamala Harris, will be the first woman to hold the office, as well as the first person of African American and of South Asian descent.
Indeed, the inauguration of the 46th President will be unusual in many respects. As tradition dictates, President-elect Biden and Vice-President elect Harris will take their Oaths of Office on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building overlooking the expansive grassy grounds of the National Mall. As has been the case since 1981, seating for guests of honor and members of Congress will be set up on the steps and terrace there. But whereas in the past 200,000 or more tickets to the ceremony were allotted to Senators and members of the House of Representatives to distribute among their constituents, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year each lawmaker will only receive one extra ticket. No more than 3,000 people will be allowed onto the Capitol grounds.
In the past, as many as 1.8 million citizens watched and celebrated the ceremony and the confirmation of the incoming leadership from the National Mall grounds. But not this year. Once the Inaugural Ceremony is finished, 80 percent of the festivities will be virtual: televised, but not attended in person by the usual crowd of one million plus celebrants. This includes the Inaugural Parade and the “Pass in Review”, a tradition that symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power, wherein the incoming president surveys a group of uniformed members of the military. That’s in keeping with the President’s primary duty—to keep the American people safe, be it from external threats, domestic malefactors, or Covid-19.
In taking this oath, the President affirms his loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. Whatever his personal feelings, party loyalty or religious convictions, he or she is bound to follow the provisions of these fundamental laws. Once sworn in, he or she is President of all Americans everywhere, regardless of whom they voted for and whether they agree with his or her policies. From the Inauguration on, the President heeds the national motto: E Pluribus Unum. Out of the many, one.