Americans are keeping a close eye on the calendar as Jan. 20, otherwise known as Inauguration Day, approaches. Now that the votes have officially been certified, solidifying President-Elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, preparations are underway for the ceremony that will formally swear him and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris into office. Given the tumultuous first week of 2021 (or rather, the last four years altogether), many of Biden’s supporters are waiting for the day with bated breath.
Biden’s team has decided that this year’s theme will be “America United.” In a statement, his inaugural committee said, “At a time of unprecedented crisis and deep divisions, America United 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.”
Though in the past, the ceremony has been open to basically anyone who wanted to attend (an estimated 1 million people showed up to watch Obama’s first inauguration in 2009), the Biden camp is urging people to stay home and join the festivities online through virtual celebrations. This is largely due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic and threats of violence from pro-Trumpers who refuse to accept the results of the election.
So… WTF will this year’s historic event look like? Here are all the answers to questions you might have about inauguration.
How can I watch virtually?
You can stream the inauguration on most major news networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, and MSNBC. You can will also be able to see it all go down on the official White House website or stream the ceremony through YouTube.
What day and time is the inauguration?
Inauguration Day falls on Jan. 20, 11 weeks after Election Day. This date has been the same since 1937. All of the hoopla will begin in the morning, but Biden and Harris won’t be expected to take their Oaths of Office until noon ET.
Where does the inauguration take place?
The U.S. Capitol. This has been the location for every single inauguration since Thomas Jefferson’s in 1801, and Biden will continue the tradition despite the Jan. 6 riots that left the building damaged.
What’s the schedule for the day?
Pre-inauguration festivities are expected to begin at 9:30 am ET, and Biden and Harris are scheduled to be sworn in at noon on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
A virtual parade will likely start around 2 or 3 p.m. “The parade will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era,” according to a press release. Performers have not yet been announced, but the committee says they will “pay homage to America’s heroes on the frontlines of the pandemic.”
What will security be like?
Due to this month’s violent insurrection at the Capitol, there will be increased security measures in place for inauguration. There will be no public access to the Capitol grounds during the ceremony, according to acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman. The National Parks Service also said that they would close the Washington Monument to tours through Jan. 24 due to “credible threats to visitors and park resources.” They may also shut down roads, parking areas, and bathrooms near the National Mall.
In addition, Washington D.C.’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser, asked federal officials to “cancel any and all” permits for public gatherings in the city during the week of Inauguration.
Will Trump be attending?
President Trump is not expected to attend. On Jan. 8, two days after his supporters stormed the Capitol, he tweeted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly be there, and all of the living former presidents except Jimmy Carter are expected to attend in person. (Carter, 96, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 93, have sent Biden and Harris their “best wishes,” per the Associated Press.)
Have other former presidents skipped inaugurations?
Trump will be the fourth president to not attend their successor’s inauguration and the first to miss his successor’s inauguration in more than 150 years. The last president to do so was Andrew Johnson in 1869. He ditched the ceremony after he was impeached and Ulysses S. Grant was elected to hold the office. Other presidents that have skipped include John Adams in 1801 and John Quincy Adams in 1829. So… yeah, it’s basically unprecedented.
Will there be an inaugural ball?
Not this year. In the past, the incoming president and their spouse have attended multiple fancy-schmancy and celeb-studded parties to celebrate the inauguration, but most of those events have been canceled or will be held virtually this year. For example, the Creative Coalition will hold their annual throw down online with virtual appearances from Keegan-Michael Key, Alyssa Milano, and Ellen Burstyn.
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