Berry students observe Biden and Harris inauguration

Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier staff writer

Student Activities Office streamed the inaguration in Krannert Ballroom C/D as well as in the Krannert Lobby. Student Diversity Initiatives similarly hosted a viewing in the Krannert Underground. Students were able to sit together socially distanced and discuss the historical nature of this year’s inauguration. Mary Grace von Thron | Campus Carrier

On Jan. 20 President Joe Biden was inaugurated along with Vice President Kamala Harris. This inauguration made history with Harris becoming the first female vice president, and the first Black and South Asian American Vice President. Later that same day, Harris swore in Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of whom were recently elected in the Jan. 5 Georgia special election. Both Senators also made state history, with Ossoff being Georgia’s first Jewish senator, and Warnock being Georgia’s first Black senator. 

In past inaugurations, members of Congress are given tickets to distribute to their constituents, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, crowding the National Mall. This year, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in part due to concerns of safety, members of Congress were given two tickets – one for themselves, and another for a single guest. 

According to the official Biden Team Inauguration website, in order to make up for the lack of citizens attending, there were close to 200,000 U.S. flags, as well as flags for each state and territory placed in the National Mall, along with 56 pillars of light to represent all of the American states and territories.

Following the capitol riots that occurred on Jan. 6, there was a noticeable increase in military and security. Michael Bailey, associate professor of political science, noted that this increase in security is unique. It’s traditional for the incoming President to meet in public spaces and speak directly to the people. 

Bailey compared this year’s inauguration to the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in terms of security. Lincoln was sworn into office during a time of increased tension due to seven Southern states seceding from the Union and the threat of a Civil War.

“More precautions were taken this year by far, in terms of the number of troops in DC, the number of barriers that are set up, the difficulty of getting people there. This really does stand as unique,” Bailey said.

A tradition in past inaugurations is the presence of the preceding president. This year, however, former President Donald Trump did not attend the inauguration, instead leaving D.C. that day to return to his residence in Florida. Bailey states that there are three instances of a former president not attending the inauguration of his successor, those instances being John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson. The presence of the former president is normally done to demonstrate unity and is especially important during a transfer between different parties. 

“Even if you lose, showing up, signifying your support, is a way of bringing the country together and demonstrates that this is our system, we have a system with winners and losers, and the losers have to accept the winners,” Bailey said.

As students had breaks in their schedule, they were able to stop in and watch parts of the inaguration. Above, Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female, first Black and first South Asian American to be the vice president of the United States. Mary Grace von Thron | Campus Carrier

Once a president has taken his oath of office, it’s a tradition for a president to give an Inaugural Address, which is the president’s first speech in office. A common thread between most inaugural addresses is a call for unity and to be a reminder to the people of the core ideals of the country. In Biden’s address, he responds to the capitol riots and ask that the citizens of the United States have respect to each other. 

“He’s reminding American citizens, in a way that I have not seen with other addresses, that democracy can not be taken for granted,” Bailey said. “That democracy, even in 2021, is still genuinely kind of an experiment and is fragile.”

The first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, recited her poem titled “The Hill We Climb” that echoed President Biden’s speech. At only 22 years old, Gorman is the youngest person in American history to have recited a poem during a presidential inauguration. In her poem, she asks for the nation to put aside differences and reach out to one another. 

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” the poem said. “It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”

In order to make the inauguration easily accessible to the students on campus, Berry premiered live coverage of the event in the Krannert Center Lobby and Ballroom C/D. Additionally, the Director of the Student Diversity Initiative, Chon’tel Washington, held a watch party in Krannert Underground. 

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