WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Joe Biden took the oath of office Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed.”
Also Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris broke the barrier that has kept men at the top ranks of American power for more than two centuries when she took the oath Wednesday to hold the nation’s second-highest office.
The 59th presidential inauguration in U.S. history ended with a firework show and primetime event.
“Democracy is precious and because of you, democracy prevailed,” Biden said in his primetime address. “America’s story depends on all of us; on we the people…Thank you for this honor. I will give my all to you.”
Hours after she was sworn in as the first female vice president, Kamala Harris addressed the nation from outside the Lincoln Memorial.
“Even in dark times we not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be,” said Harris. “We shoot for the moon and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up.”
Harris referenced President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the women’s suffrage movement in the United States before remarking on the challenges ahead for the country. “A great experiment takes great determination,” said the vice president. “The will to do the work, and then the wisdom to keep refining, keep tinkering, keep perfecting — the same determination is being realized in America today.”
Actor Tom Hanks hosted a 90-minute special featuring performances that the inaugural committee described as representing “the rich diversity and extensive talent America” has to offer. “Celebrating America” will include appearances from Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Kerry Washington.
Before the primetime show, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took questions at her first on-camera and in-person briefing of the Biden administration; you can watch the briefing below.
This year’s inaugural theme “America United” aimed to restore “the soul of America,” bring the country together and create “a path to a brighter future.”
While Americans were discouraged from traveling to the nation’s capital due to threats of possible violence following the deadly Capitol riot earlier this month, the Presidential Inaugural Committee offered many ways for citizens to celebrate from home in the lead up to, and following, the swearing-in ceremony.
With a handful of virtual events, Americans were encouraged to honor the tradition with “a diverse array of inspiring speakers and community leaders across the country,” the committee said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump left the White House for the final time as president.
He held a departure ceremony early Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland before traveling to Florida, where he’ll begin his post-presidency at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. The farewell event included a red carpet, a military band and a 21-gun salute.
Full Inauguration Day schedule:
10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST: Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans
The committee hosted a livestream for young Americans before and during the inaugural ceremonies. Entertainer and advocate Keke Palmer hosted the event, and it included a special message from Dr. Jill Biden as well as commentary from historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar. It also included segments produced by Nickelodeon and the Library of Congress, excerpts of student voices from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs “We the Young People” programming, and trivia questions.
Biden and Harris were sworn in at the inaugural ceremony and deliver their inaugural address. The event took place on the West front of the U.S. Capitol building, with health and safety protocols in place to protect public health. In-person attendance is limited to Congress. The National Park Service and the Secret Service have shut down the National Mall from last Friday through Thursday, and access to the Washington Monument has been closed for two weeks.
Pass in Review
Following the ceremony, a Pass in Review was held on the East front with members of the military. It’s a longstanding military tradition that reflects the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief.
Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery
Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff visited Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were joined by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Joe Biden received a presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House. Every branch of the military was represented, including The U.S. Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and Drum Corps from the 3rd U.S. Infantry “The Old Guard.”
Virtual Parade Across America
A televised “Parade Across America” featured “diverse, dynamic performances in communities across the country,” the committee said.
7 p.m. EST: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds first briefing
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took questions at her first on-camera and in-person briefing of the Biden administration.
8:30 p.m. EST: Celebrating America Primetime Special
For more information about the 2021 inaugural schedule, visit the committee’s website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.