WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The theme for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will be “America United,” an issue that’s been a central focus for Biden’s future administration but one that’s taken on added weight in the wake of the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced the theme Monday and said that the theme “reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together, and creates a path to a brighter future.”
In keeping with the theme of unity, the committee also announced that after he is officially inaugurated, Biden, Vice President-elect Harris and their spouses will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and will be joined there by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and their wives. It will be one of Biden’s first acts as president and a show of bipartisanship.
The focus on unity has characterized Biden’s presidential run from the start, and he’s said repeatedly since winning the White House he sees unifying the country as one of his top priorities as president. The urgency of the challenge Biden faces became clearer this week after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol, spurred by the president’s repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden’s win.
Trump himself is skipping Biden’s inauguration, a decision Biden said was a “good thing,” though Vice President Mike Pence and his wife plan to attend. Trump will be the first incumbent president since Andrew Johnson to skip his successor’s swearing-in. Traditionally, the incoming and outgoing presidents ride to the U.S. Capitol together for the ceremony, as a symbol of the nation’s peaceful transition.
“This inauguration marks a new chapter for the American people — one of healing, of unifying, of coming together, of an America united,” said PIC CEO Dr. Tony Allen to the Associated Press. “It is time to turn the page on this era of division. The inaugural activities will reflect our shared values and serve as a reminder that we are stronger together than we are apart, just as our motto ‘e pluribus unum’ reminds us — out of many, one.”
The committee also announced plans for a major public art display spanning multiple blocks of the National Mall that will feature 191,500 U.S. flags and 56 pillars of light, to represent every U.S. state and territory. After Biden asked Americans to stay home for his inauguration, the “Field of Flags” is meant to represent “the American people who are unable to travel” to the Capitol to celebrate his swearing-in, according to the committee.
It’s not the only COVID-era change to the festivities. In keeping with crowd-size restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, Biden will have a significantly pared-down inauguration, with traditional activities like the parade and the inaugural balls moving to a virtual format. But even as the celebration itself will be smaller, inauguration officials are preparing a significant security presence in preparation for what may be more pro-Trump demonstrations across Washington.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser asked for a “pre-disaster declaration” for the District to allow for federal assistance early Monday.
President Trump’s inauguration theme in 2017 was “Uniquely American.” Prior to that in 2013. former President Obama’s theme was “Faith in America’s Future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.