The schedule, start time, how to watch, what to expect and livestream for the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States.
Joe Biden has seen 13 presidents inaugurated during his lifetime, but his own swearing-in will look very different.
At noon on January 20 as Biden takes the oath of office, he will not be cheered by thousands of well-wishers, march in a parade, or be accompanied by the outgoing president. His inauguration will be a muted affair, reflecting the seriousness of the security threats following the January 6 attack on the Capitol and the pandemic gripping the country.
Biden will still take the oath at the Capitol, accompanied by socially distanced members of the military, and his inaugural committee has planned a number of virtual events. Those events, which start at 10 am ET, will be livestreamed on the Biden team’s official channels, broadcast on multiple cable networks, and available on various other platforms like Twitch and Facebook. Vox will also stream the event here:
Still, officials are discouraging people from traveling to DC for the ceremony. According to CNN, escalating security concerns forced Biden himself to alter his plans: He will no longer take the train from Wilmington, DE, to Washington, DC, a trip he famously took for years while serving in the Senate.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam jointly urged Americans not to come into DC for the inauguration: “Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, including last week’s violent insurrection as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, DC and to instead participate virtually.”
President Donald Trump has made it clear that he will break with 152 years of tradition in refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration. Typically, an outgoing president invites the president-elect to the White House before the inauguration ceremony, but that also will not happen. Instead, according to NPR, Trump will have a departure ceremony the morning of the inauguration at Joint Base Andrews, after which he expected to fly directly to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. However, Vice President Mike Pence reportedly plans to attend Biden’s inauguration.
In a show of unity — the inaugural theme is “America United” — former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton will accompany Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery shortly after Biden and Harris take the oath of office. The only other former president still alive who won’t be in attendance is Jimmy Carter, now 96, who will skip the event for the first time since his own inauguration in 1977.
If you want to participate from home, here’s what to expect for the rest of the week.
How to watch the ceremony and inaugural events
There are several ways to watch the inauguration and its associated events. In addition to Vox’s livestream, you can also watch on the Biden team’s official channels as well as any of their social media channels: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch.
If you’re watching on your television, ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and PBS will be carrying it live. There are more details on accessible viewing options that the committee has put together here.
Here’s a rundown of events on Tuesday, January 19.
Nationwide Covid-19 Memorial, around 5:30 pm ET
The inaugural committee is hosting a ceremony where municipalities nationwide will illuminate buildings and ring church bells in honor of the now 400,000 American lives lost to Covid-19. In Washington, DC the event will feature lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Inaugural balls, around 7-11 pm ET
Instead of the traditional in-person inaugural balls Wednesday night, on Tuesday the Biden team held virtual balls highlighting America’s multiculturalism including an AAPI Inaugural Ball, a Latino Inaugural event, and We Are One, an event focused on Black communities and the African diaspora. All of these events feature well-known individuals from the respective communities including former Olympian Michelle Kwan, Kumail Nanjiani, Edward James Olmos, Emilio Estefan, Tobe Nwigwe, and a variety of political leaders.
Here’s a rundown of events on Wednesday, January 20.
President Donald Trump’s counter-programmed farewell, around 8 am ET
Trump will not only be skipping Biden’s inauguration, he will be hosting an event of his own at Joint Andrews Base in Maryland. Details are still up in the air but invitations have gone out providing each guest with a plus five — potentially an indication of Trump’s fretting about his own crowd size. CNN has reported that Pence is not expected to join Trump at this send-off for logistical reasons, however the relationship has soured since the president publicly blamed Pence for refusing to challenge Biden’s electoral votes — a power which Pence argued he did not have.
Virtual presidential inaugural prayer service, around 10 am ET
President-elect Biden’s public day will start with a Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral. It will include worship from interfaith leaders as well as artists and other voices: Bishop William J. Barber II will deliver the homily, and Josh Groban, Patti LaBelle, and the Clarke Sisters will perform. Biden will be joined by congressional leadership: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Inaugural ceremonies, coverage begins 10:30 am ET
The inauguration will feature Lady Gaga performing the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez with a traditional performance, and a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, who recently made history as the first national youth poet laureate. The invocation will be led by Leo J. O’Donovan, an American Jesuit Catholic priest and the benediction by Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, the pastor of Bethel African Methodists Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware — both of these faith leaders are long time friends of the Biden family.
Biden will take his oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts and Harris will take hers from the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Post-inaugural events, around 2 pm ET
Following the inauguration, the Bidens, the Harris family, along with the Obamas, the Bushes, and the Clintons will lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Then, the traditional “Pass in Review” reflecting the transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief will occur on the east front of the Capitol building. Biden will then be escorted to the White House alongside each branch of the military.
At this point there would usually be a presidential parade; instead the inaugural committee has planned a virtual parade across America modeled off of the Democratic National Committee’s virtual roll call last summer. It will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn and feature Jon Stewart, New Radicals, and Earth Wind & Fire, among others.
“Celebrating America” primetime special, 8:30 pm ET
The inaugural activities will finish with a “Celebrating America” special hosted by Actor Tom Hanks, Biden and Harris will give remarks alongside appearances from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chef José Andrés, Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Kerry Washington, among others.
The program will also feature ordinary Americans such as a UPS driver, a child who started a food and essential supplies pantry in his community, a kindergarten teacher, and the first American to receive a Covid-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
What to expect in the events
Biden has signaled very clearly throughout his campaign and transition that he hopes to focus on the twin themes of American unity and “Build Back Better,” his campaign slogan.
He has recently released a $1.9 trillion relief plan which Vox’s Emily Stewart explained is “a big deal … more than double the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Democrats passed in 2009 in the wake of the Great Recession.” Biden has been signaling a desire to take advantage of historically low interest rates to revitalize the economy by spending big early in his term. Encouraging Congress to act quickly on his proposal could play a large role in his remarks, especially as the Trump impeachment proceedings threaten to overshadow his priorities.
“Frankly, I think President-elect Biden has been doing exactly what he needs to do, which is being presidential,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) told Vox. “I think one of the most important ways to unite our country right now is to address the pandemic that is surging while we’re all focusing on the insurrection last week.”
Biden has certainly made Covid-19 and its toll a focus of his inaugural activities. On Tuesday, he held a “Nationwide Covid-19 Memorial” to “remember and honor the lives lost to Covid-19 in cities and towns across the country” on Tuesday.
It’s still a question how many lawmakers will be attending the inauguration (either for political reasons, worries over Covid-19 transmission, or the threat of another attack) but several lawmakers Vox spoke with said they would be in attendance. The presence of up to 25,000 National Guard troops will likely ease fears of at least the third consideration.
“That’s something I certainly intend to be here for, and recognize the peaceful transfer of power,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told Vox. Sens. Ted Cruz, Roger Marshall, Josh Hawley, Tommy Tuberville who all objected to the legitimacy of some of Biden’s electoral college votes in the Capitol last week will all be in attendance according to reporting by Fox. House and Senate GOP leadership have also confirmed that they will be in attendance.
Democrats have had to seriously ramp up their virtual hosting chops in the last year — they abandoned a lot of face-to-face campaigning for the sake of safety (to uncertain success) and hosted a virtual convention (to much more certain success).
“We are modeling our inauguration after our national convention,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) told Vox. “We’ve hired the same people to put that together to put this one together. It was very effective I thought. The virtual roll call worked famously and people loved it.”
Author: Jerusalem Demsas