FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 18, 2021
Turning point: America inaugurates a new president and vice president this Wednesday
From preview coverage, share an inauguration fact you didn't know.
Now pick a quote that shows what's unusual about this week's event.
Look for a reaction from your city or state to the outgoing president's departure. Does it reflect your view?
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris become our nation's top two leaders at noon Wednesday, the final formality of last fall's election. The ceremony, which takes place Jan. 20 every four years on the U.S. Capitol steps, has a notably different tone this time. It symbolizes democracy's peaceful transfer of power, but comes exactly two weeks after a not-peaceful takeover of the Capitol by hundreds of protesters on the day Congress certified the Nov. 3 vote results from each state.
Because of that dangerous disruption, this week's televised event takes place without a customary audience of thousands on the nearby National Mall and with a heavy National Guard presence (25,000 members) for security. Large areas around the White House and Capitol are closed to the public. Before the two Democrats are sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court, Lada Gaga sings the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez also performs. Three former presidents -- Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – plan to attend, as does outgoing Vice President Mike Pence. (Obama and Clinton are Democrats, as Biden and Harris are. Bush and Pence are Republicans.) Biden, who was vice president under Obama from 2009-17, will deliver an inaugural address that sets the stage for his administration's governing vision, policy goals and slogans.
Rather than a traditional parade along Pennsylvania Avenue as the new president, vice president and their families make their way to the White House over a mile away, there will be a one-block walk escorted by representatives from every military branch. That evening, instead of customary dance parties around the capital, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time ABC special celebrating the inauguration, with music by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.
The inaugural theme is "America United," a longtime focus for Biden and now a particularly relevant goal in the wake of Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol. It "reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future," the Presidential Inaugural Committee says. On Tuesday evening, a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool will be held in remembrance of about 400,000 U.S. fatalities in the coronavirus pandemic.
Inaugural oath says: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."
Joe Biden says: "It really is about restoring some dignity to the office, about picking truth over lies, unity over division. It's about who we are." – Campaign speech
Historian says: "Biden's main task is to reestablish the symbol of the White House to the world as a place of integrity and good governance. Because right now everything is in disarray. But Biden is uniquely situated to do this, his whole life has been spent in Washington and he spent eight years watching the job up close." Douglas Brinkley, professor at Rice University in Houston
Front Page Talking Points Archive
Lessons & Classroom Activities
Resources by grade level