On Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 12 p.m., Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Shortly beforehand, Kamala Harris was sworn into office as vice president, making her the first woman, South Asian, and black person to hold this office in the country’s history.
Despite damage incurred at the U.S. capitol from the attack on Jan. 6, the inauguration took place at the west end of the U.S. Capitol per tradition.
On the other hand, breaking tradition, President Trump did not attend the ceremony, making him the first president in over 150 years to not attend the inauguration of his successor.
In his inaugural address, Biden recognized and paid tribute to the pandemic and harsh political division that surround this transition of power.
“To overcome these challenges—to restore the soul and to secure the future of America—requires more than words,” he stated. “It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity.”
Biden also took a moment to recognize the Capitol Hill attack and celebrate the victorious spirit of democracy in America: “We’ve learned, again, that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Harris’ first speech as vice president was also filled with optimism and encouragement for the future.
“In many ways this moment embodies our character as a nation,” she said. “It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times. We not only dream, we do.”
She added: “We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up.”
Following his oath of office, Biden immediately got to work signing 30 executive orders in his first three days as president. Several of these reverse policies put into place by the Trump administration.
Biden reversed the “Muslim Ban,” which set U.S. entry restrictions on passport holders from seven Muslim majority countries. He also rejoined the Paris climate accord and stopped the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization as set into motion by Trump.
Biden also halted the construction of the border wall begun by Trump and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The 100 Days Masking Challenge”, one of Biden’s many new COVID-19 combatant policies, was also passed via executive order, through which Biden encouraged the American people to mask for 100 days, required masking and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands and by government contractors, and urged local and state governments to do the same.
Finally, Biden’s order that extends the pause of federal student loan payments and interest accumulation was executed in hopes of being helpful to many college students and graduates.
According to an ABC/Washington Post poll, Biden enters his term with a 67% approval rating. While this is higher than 54% approval rating at the beginning of Trump’s term, Biden’s numbers are still historically lower than past presidents like Obama, G.W. Bush, Clinton and H.W. Bush.
In other words, despite Biden’s plea for unity, he still has a long way to go to win over the remainder of the American public.