Spotlight Commentary: The Inauguration of Joe Biden

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Jenny Seo

“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.” On Jan. 20, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States after uttering these same exact words, calling for unity and democracy after the turbulent four years under Donald Trump as president. Although the inauguration looked a bit different from what we have seen from past ceremonies due to heightened COVID-19 precautions and the absence of the former president, highlights of the event have received much commentary in the media and online, making it as memorable as past ones. 

 

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem

22-year-old Amanda Gorman blew everyone away with a moving piece she wrote and read, addressing the country’s bright future and the mob attack on the US Capitol. She stated that her poem “The Hill We Climb” was meant to acknowledge the dark and divided state of America, in which she drew inspiration from past inaugural poems written at a time when the nation lacked harmony as well. Dressed in a bright yellow coat and a scarlet headband, Gorman left quite an impression on people all over the world, inspiring especially young black women to use language and words to help start the country’s new chapter. As for an update on her current status, on Feb. 8, she stepped up to the Super Bowl’s stage and recited an original poem that was a tribute to three people–a teacher, a nurse, and a veteran–for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Lady Gaga belts the national anthem

At the inauguration, singer-songwriter Lady Gaga traded her normally flamboyant outfits and dance moves for a more elegant and simple performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. This does not mean that she did anything dull, however. Many commented on how her blood-red ballgown, giant dove brooch, and braided platinum blonde hair reminded them of the “Queen of Hearts” in the movie “Alice in Wonderland”. Gaga had been a vocal supporter of President Biden throughout his presidential campaign, and even worked on projects together aimed at the prevention of sexual violence during the Obama administration. Gaga’s rendition of the song was loved by numerous people, with her characteristics of boldness and originality shining through.

 

The inauguration outfits

Social media users went crazy once they saw former First Lady Michelle Obama and newly elected Vice President Kamila Harris show up at the event, both wearing a lesser-known brand founded by Sergio Hudson, a rising black American designer who has also worked with other huge public figures like Rihanna and Beyoncé. In the past year when America has faced such socio-political upheaval as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement under Trump’s presidency and his implicit support for white supremacy, these choices of outfits were a clear message: Biden’s administration will break from tradition and stand in support of black Americans. 

 

Donald Trump’s absence

After a whirlwind of a term, Donald Trump exited the White House and opened it up to the Bidens. As the first US president to have been impeached twice, he also refused to attend President Biden’s inauguration, joining the company of seven other former US presidents ever to have done so. This attendance is usually seen as an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power, and unsurprisingly, Trump’s disregard for this faced criticism from many.

 

President Biden has already begun to sign several Executive Orders in the Oval office, many of which had been disapproved under the Trump administration. The most timely one of these orders include requiring people to wear masks in federal buildings, which had not been carried out yet. Biden ended the memorable event with a simple promise made during his inaugural speech that sparked hope in everyone’s hearts, when he assured his citizens of the uncertain future: “Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent, peaceably, the guardrails of our republic, is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength”.