Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S., the nation's second Catholic commander in chief., something not seen since President John F. Kennedy made history in 1961 as the country's first. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath in an unprecedented inauguration held after an assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and during a pandemic that has now made coronavirus the leading cause of death in America.
Biden placed his his hand atop the same Bible he has used to be sworn into office since he became a senator in 1973, his 127-year-old, 5-inch-thick family Bible, Today reported. "It's just been a family heirloom on the Biden side of the family, and every important date is in there," he told late-night host Stephen Colbert last month. The Bible was held by his wife, Jill Biden.
Harris became the nation's first female vice president, the first Asian American vice president and the first Black vice president.
"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," she said during her election victory speech, referencing the way in which her mother wanted her to live her life: to not only be a trailblazer, but someone who pulled others up with her.
Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the high court. The vice president had been escorted to the proceedings by Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who went viral after leading Trump rioters away from the Senate chamber during the deadly insurrection earlier this month.
Goodman is now the acting deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms.
Biden and Harris were sworn in before noon ET and Biden then delivered his first address as president. "The will of the people has been heard," he said. "Democracy has prevailed."
"This is a great nation. We are good people," Biden said.
President Biden pleaded for unity to a divided nation. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge," he said on the Capitol steps. “And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.”
In a nod to Trump's divisiveness, which has scarred the country and pitted neighbor against neighbor, Biden declared, “I will be a president for all Americans.”
The ceremony featured Lady Gaga singing the national anthem while holding a gold microphone, Jennifer Lopez singing a medley of “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” to which she added a line from her 1999 hit “Let’s Get Loud," and Garth Brooks performing the gospel standard "Amazing Grace."
But it was Amanda Gorman, a Black 22-year-old poet from Los Angeles, who provided one of the most poignant moments in a day packed with history-making events.
The youngest poet ever to speak at an inauguration joined literary legends including Maya Angelou and Robert Frost in reading her work at the Capitol podium.
She had penned "The Hill We Climb," in the days leading up to this one.
"We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
"In this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us," she said.
Many members of Congress, the Supreme Court and former presidents attended. Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton were there. Jimmy Carter, who at 96 is the country's oldest living former president, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, did not attend, but sent Biden and Harris their “best wishes” and “look forward to a successful administration," NBC News reported.
Donald Trump left Washington, D.C., before the ceremony. He is the first president to refuse attending his successor's swearing in since Andrew Johnson snubbed the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. Vice President Mike Pence did attend.