The Historical Significance of Joe Biden’s Inauguration

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Amelia Valente , Chief Editor

The inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, and his vice president, Kamala Harris, will take place on Wednesday January 20th at 12:00pm, and for many reasons this administration’s inauguration ceremony will be unlike any that have occurred in history. For example, in this year’s inauguration we will witness Kamala Harris become the first woman, African American, and South Asian American to be sworn in as vice president of the United States, serving as an inspiration to women and specifically women of color who lack representation in American politics and government.

The inauguration ceremony itself is extremely important because it celebrates the process of a democratic election, an expression of the will of the American people. It also symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of a strong and functioning democracy. The United States of America has historically been viewed as a beacon for burgeoning or struggling democracies all over the world, and the transition of power that we observe after an election is a stark example of what is possible when an electorate chooses its leader and that leader serves its citizens and lives up to the ideals set forth by our founding fathers in the US Constitution. The peaceful shift in power from a current presidential administration to newly-elected leadership has become a cornerstone of American democracy since it was first observed in 1800, but this important democratic concept has been damaged and ignored by our current president Donald Trump who refuses to recognize the results of a free and fair election and concede to his opponent who won both the popular vote and the electoral college. Donald Trump will be breaking democratic norms and a long-standing tradition by refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory and refusing to attend his inauguration which an incumbent president has not done in over 150 years.

Over the years, the inauguration ceremony itself has become less of a simple oath-taking ceremony and more of a celebration that includes social gatherings and events such as parades, poem and prayer readings, luncheons, and even an inaugural ball that celebrates the commencement of the new president and his incoming administration. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these ceremonial “events” will be virtual, the inaugural crowd will be extremely limited, and public health restrictions like mask requirements and social distancing rules will be put in place to ensure people’s safety. However, COVID-19 is not the only thing that is breaking traditions and threatening the sanctity of this year’s inauguration ceremony. The violent attack on our Capitol building and our elected officials that occurred on January 6th will be cause for increased security at the ceremony. CNN reports that “the pentagon has authorized 25,000 national guard members for the inauguration for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration…” as threats of violent protests and riots increase across the nation. As Donald Trump continues to spread misinformation regarding the fairness and legality of the 2020 election, we are witnessing something both equally historic and frightening: a president who is undermining and threatening our democratic systems by refusing to peacefully give up power, chipping away at the trust that Americans have in the fair and legal election process, and disrespecting and disregarding the long-standing electoral traditions that serve as the cornerstone of our democracy.

On January 20th at noon, Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States alongside Kamala Harris who will make history as the first woman of color to be elected vice president. In the midst of a deadly pandemic, a devastating economic crisis, and a deeply divided political world, we must not take our democracy and everything it represents for granted. As young adults who are approaching the legal age to vote we must determine our values, understand the role that we play and the importance of our active engagement as citizens in a democratic society, and ensure that our elected officials reflect our values and dedicate themselves to serving and upholding our Constitution. It is crucial to stay informed, get news from reputable sources, and know our history as Americans. Democracy is not an ideology that can exist on its own, and if we want to keep it, we must value it, recognize its fragility, and work to maintain it.