Washington, January 20
US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday arrived for the historic inauguration at the West Front of the Capitol.
Biden, 78, will take the oath of office as the 46th President of the United States while Harris, 56, will be sworn in as the 49th US Vice President.
Over 25,000 National Guard troops are guarding the venue and nearby areas to ensure that the nation’s transfer of power can take place peacefully.
Biden, who is set to be the oldest president in American history, will succeed President Donald Trump, 74, who has decided not to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Harris will take over the office of the US Vice President from 61-year-old Mike Pence.
The President-elect is wearing a navy suit and a navy overcoat, both designed by American designer Ralph Lauren. His wife Dr Jill Biden is wearing an ocean blue wool tweed coat and dress by emerging American designer Alexandra O’Neil of Markarian.
Harris, the daughter of an Indian immigrant from Chennai, will create history by becoming the first-ever woman Vice President of the United States. She would also be the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president.
Her husband Douglas Emhoff, 56, will be the first ‘Second Gentleman’ – the first male spouse of a vice president in the US.
Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Biden just after the clock strikes 12 (local time) at the West Front of the Capitol – the traditional location for presidential inaugural ceremonies.
The inauguration, which is being held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, will see no large gatherings as the Presidential Inaugural Committee and local law enforcement officials have asked the public not to travel to Washington DC for the event.
The event is being held under the unprecedented security umbrella by elite security personnel, who have transformed the capital into a garrison city, mainly because of the threat of more violent protests by the supporters of Trump.
Trump is the first outgoing president of the US to miss his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson, who was impeached in 1869. Trump, however, extended “best wishes” to the new administration in a farewell video address on Tuesday.
Trump has not only refused to concede the elections for more than two months, but also did not invite his successor to the White House as is the custom.
Biden has termed Trump’s decision to skip the swearing-in ceremony as “one of the few things he and I ever agreed on.”
He in the past has said tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, systemic racism and climate change will be the top priorities for the incoming administration as they gear up for building back everything “better than ever”.
Biden will take the oath on his 127-year-old family Bible, which will be held by his wife, Jill Biden, 69.
He will deliver his first presidential address to the country shortly after taking the oath. The historic speech, with the theme of unity and healing, has been prepared by his Indian-American speech writer Vinay Reddy.
Harris will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court.
Harris will be sworn in on two Bibles – one that belonged to a close family friend named Regina Shelton and another that belonged to Thurgood Marshall – the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice.
The ceremony is likely to be attended by former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton. Former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton are also set to attend the event.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Biden and Harris will attend a traditional Pass in Review with members of the military on the East Front of the Capitol, signifying the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief.
Biden, Harris and their spouses will visit Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where they will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After the wreath ceremony, they will head to the White House, where they will get a presidential escort. That will kick off the virtual “Parade Across America,” featuring performances from all 56 states and territories.
Biden enters the White House with the top challenge to lift the country from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans and thrown millions into economic distress. Revival of the economy, which has been badly bruised by the pandemic, is another challenge that he faces.
Meanwhile, the American capital has been virtually turned into a garrison city, amidst multiple reports of threats and more armed violence by pro-Trump supporters to disrupt the events.
The area in and around Capitol Hill, a large part of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House has been made out of bounds for the general public with eight-feet high iron barricades being erected.
In addition to converting downtown Washington D.C. into a fortress, security in and around 50 State Capitols has also been put on high alert to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
US defence officials say they are also worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops deployed for the event. PTI