Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th U.S. president today in an inaugural ceremony set to unfold under heavy security after weeks of tumult and unrest stoked by Donald Trump.
Biden will take the oath at noon on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, making a plea for national unity from the very spot that was overrun by Trump supporters just two weeks ago in a deadly attempt to derail the transfer of power.
The event — themed “America United” — will be nearly devoid of the customary pomp that surrounds a presidential inauguration as the recent violence and ongoing coronavirus pandemic preclude any large gatherings. Instead of throngs of supporters crowding the National Mall, Biden will see thousands of National Guard soldiers and barricades — a grim reminder of the deep national rift he wants to mend.
In an address after he’s sworn in, Biden will call on Americans to bring the country together during an unprecedented crisis, according to advisers to the president-elect who asked not to be identified ahead of the speech. He’ll ask every citizen to meet what the advisers called an extraordinary challenge facing the nation, in a speech they said would be built around the theme of unity.
The address will be 20 to 30 minutes long, according to a person familiar with the matter who also asked not to be identified.
The most glaring omission from the events will be Trump himself. He is the first president in modern history to skip the inauguration of his successor. Trump never conceded that he lost the election and since inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, has done little to quell tensions across the country as threats of violence against elected leaders, federal buildings and state capitals have surfaced.
Trump plans to fly to Florida Wednesday morning before the ceremony.
“It has been the most tense, contentious transition since the post-Civil War era,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a politics professor at the University of Houston. “The expectation of the political system is that there be a smooth transition and minimal friction. We’ve obviously seen that shattered.”