Politics

US Presidential Inauguration: the 8 most memorable moments you missed

History has been made once more – Donald Trump is out, and President Joe Biden is in. Charley Ross breaks down this massive moment for America, from Kamala Harris’ moment of victory to a series of fist bumps.      

On Wednesday 20th January, longtime Democrat politician and former Vice President Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States at the country’s 59th inauguration ceremony.

This huge moment in history was marked under quite unusual circumstances – due to new rules made in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the security breaches made by the Capitol riots – but the ceremony wasn’t without its charm and memorable moments.

Outside the US Capitol in Washington DC, a limited crowd gathered to witness Joe Biden and Kamala Harris be sworn in as President and Vice President respectively.

Masks were worn, social distancing was observed – with numerous begloved fist bumps the new means of greeting.

Before the ceremony began, a “virtual parade” of communities across the country was shown instead of the usual (and more traditional) inaugural parade, in the interest of security and safeguarding against the spread of coronavirus.

You may also like

Every single member of the Biden-Harris White House communications team will be a woman

The line-up of performers was star-studded, with the likes of Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and American singer-songwriter Garth Brooks taking to the stage.

Departing President Donald Trump did not attend the inauguration ceremony – he had already left for Florida when the ceremony began – but former Vice President Pence was in attendance with his wife Karen Pence.

Here are the top moments from the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration Ceremony.

Lady Gaga’s star-spangled performance

Accompanied by the President’s own United States marine band, the singer took to the podium for a powerful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner – singing into a golden microphone, no less.

She wore a stunning red and black Schiaparelli Haute Couture oversized gown, with a rather oversized – and symbolic – dove brooch carrying an olive branch pinned to her chest.

Gaga tweeted on Wednesday stating that the performance had “great meaning” to her. “My intention is to acknowledge our past, be healing for our present, and passionate for a future where we work together lovingly,” she added. 

The singer campaigned with President Biden during the final weeks of the election in Pennsylvania, a major battleground state that he went on to win.

Kamala Harris makes history   

The USA’s first African-American, first Asian-American and first female Vice President was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayo, the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court.

By the end of her oath of allegiance, Harris was visibly holding back tears – undoubtedly soaking in a truly massive moment, making millions of young girls’ dreams a new reality and possibility. 

She hugged her husband Doug Emhoff when she had finished, who held the bible for her as she pledged. In another historic moment, Emhoff has become America’s first ever “second gentleman”.

Michelle Obama’s show-shopping suit      

The former First Lady and bestselling author set social media alight with her sartorial choice for the inauguration ceremony, some saying she “stole the show”.

Her gorgeous plum-coloured suit – which consisted of a turtleneck with wide-legged trousers, matched with a gold circle buckle belt that cinched at her waist – was designed by Black designer Sergio Hudson, who also provided Vice President Kamala Harris with part of her inauguration look.

Harris’ violet dress was also designed by Hudson – who has also worked with Rihanna and Beyoncé – while the Vice President’s matching coat was designed by Christopher John Rogers, an up-and-coming, queer, Black fashion designer.

President Biden’s inspirational speech

The new President assured the millions watching him from all around the world, as well as the smaller crowd in Washington DC, that “democracy has prevailed”.

“Here we stand, looking out on the great mall where Dr [Martin Luther] King spoke of his dream. Here we stand where, 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote.

“And today, we mark the swearing of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change!”

While he claimed to be “humbled” by those who supported him in the election, he had an important message for those who did not: “To all of those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

“I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

He went on to namecheck white supremacy, domestic terrorism, climate change and the Covid-19 virus as challenges that the nation must overcome through unity. Sob.

A Biden-Obama bromance and a fist bump      

Two Presidents, old and new, proved to the world that they are still great mates. As he arrived at the Capitol, Joe Biden took a few moments to fist bump Barack Obama, who was standing supportively in the small audience to welcome him.

On Wednesday, the previous President took to Twitter to celebrate his former running mate’s victory. “Congratulations to my friend, President @JoeBiden!” he tweeted. “This is your time.”

Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama were also seen fist bumping later on – we loved the Black trailblazers of American politics sharing a kindred moment. 

J-Lo’s passionate message in Spanish

The Love Don’t Cost A Thing star wowed the world with a medley of famous American folk song This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and patriotic track America The Beautiful. She also performed a sound bite from her own 1999 track Let’s Get Loud, to mixed reception.

Lopez also spoke out with a Spanish translation of the US pledge of allegiance during her performance. The singer said: “una nacion, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos”, which translates to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

The US is home to 41 million native Spanish speakers, according to 2018 census data – that’s 13% of the population. What a move from a true icon.

Bernie Sanders’ ultimate inauguration fashion statement       

The United States senator got spectators talking with his own outfit choice for the inauguration, which included mittens that are rumoured to be made from plastic bottles, and a large overcoat. Sanders was pictured sitting cross-legged on a chair, looking rather chilly.

“You know in Vermont, we dress warm, we know something about the cold,” he told US news network CBS when asked about his outfit choice. “We’re not so concerned about good fashion, we want to keep warm. And that’s what I did today.” What a legend.

Sanders dropped out of the 2020 Democratic Presidential race, conceding to Biden in April of last year. 

“As we hurt, we hoped. As we tired, we tried.”

22-year old writer and performer Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration, with her poem The Hill We Climb.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice,” she read. The poem read as a love letter to America, calling the nation “not broken, but simply unfinished”.

“Even as we grieved, we grew. As we hurt, we hoped. Even as we tired, we tried. We’ll forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but we will never again sow division,” she said. Shivers.

Gorman referred to herself as a “skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming President, only to find herself reciting for one”. 

You may also like

Amanda Gorman’s incredible inauguration performance is taking the world by storm

Image: Getty/Drew Angerer