Joe Biden
Joe Biden (Photo: Pix_Arena / Shutterstock.com)

An inauguration unlike any other amid a pandemic, unrest

(AP) — Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden will look unlike anything the nation has seen before as the scars of COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol turn the West Front into a virtual ghost town compared to years past.

Instead of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, there will be a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead of balls, there will be Zoom parties. Instead of hundreds of thousands congregating on the Capitol grounds and on the National Mall, there will be thousands of National Guard members.

What to watch for on Inauguration Day:

THE SWEARING-IN

Biden’s oath of office is the only essential. The Constitution sets out a 35-word oath for the new president. Some presidents make it 39 by tacking on “so help me God.” There are conflicting stories about when the ad lib started. Some say George Washington added the words when he took the oath at his 1789 inaugural. Others say the first eyewitness account of a president using those words came at Chester Arthur’s inauguration in 1881. Regardless of who started the add-on, every president since 1933 has done it.

Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Biden; Justice Sonya Sotomayor will swear in Kamala Harris as vice president.

Among the celebrities who will bring star power to Biden’s inauguration are Lady Gaga, who will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Jennifer Lopez, who will give a musical performance.

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will read an original poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

THE SPEECH

A president’s inauguration speech is designed to set the tone and the policies the new administration will pursue. Biden’s speech will focus on how he will seek to make good on the theme he has chosen for the inauguration, “America United”

As the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol showed, the challenge before him is daunting.

WHO WON’T BE THERE

President Donald Trump has opted not to attend the inauguration, becoming the first president to do so since Andrew Johnson in 1869. The tradition of a president attending his successor’s inauguration began with George Washington and projects to the country and the world that America is transitioning to new leadership freely and in peace.

Biden and Harris are urging supporters to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The National Mall is closed and just a fraction of the tickets usually handed out for an inauguration will be distributed.

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