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LIVE BLOG: The Inauguration of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris


Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

18:00 EST: This concludes VOA Learning English's live coverage of the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th President of the United States. See below for some of the highlights of Inauguration Day.

Washington was locked down by thousands of National Guard troops ahead of the inauguration. Two weeks after a mob of pro-Trump protesters attacked the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration went on without violence.

Former President Donald Trump left early in the morning for his home in Florida.

See below for highlights on how the day unfolded, from the opening comments, the presentation of gifts, a visit to Arlington cemetery and Biden's eventual arrival at the White House.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, U.S., January 20, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, U.S., January 20, 2021.

Biden even walked the last block or so along Pennsylvania Avenue, following in the footsteps of many before him.

The final official event of the day is expected to be a press briefing by Biden's new press secretary at 19:00 EST.

The remainder of the evening will be highlighted by a television and online celebration for Biden, hosted by actor Tom Hanks.

Thank you for joining VOA Learning English on this historic day.

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17:20 EST: At the White House, Biden signs several new executive orders to change policies enacted under the Trump administration. They include an order to require face covering on all federal property and to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

16:50 EST: Vice President Kamala Harris, as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, swears in three new Democratic senators. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won Senate elections in Georgia earlier this month, defeating Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Alex Padilla was appointed by California’s governor to fill Harris’ seat.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris walks with her great-niece Amara Ajagu to the White House during the Inauguration Day parade for U.S. President Joe Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris walks with her great-niece Amara Ajagu to the White House during the Inauguration Day parade for U.S. President Joe Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
U.S. President Joe Biden, his wife Jill and members of their family walk to the White House during the Inauguration Day parade, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
U.S. President Joe Biden, his wife Jill and members of their family walk to the White House during the Inauguration Day parade, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)


15:47 EST: Biden and Harris are walking the last few steps to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. The last time a president walked in this square there was tear gas in the air.

Biden stopped more than once to say something to reporters and people watching. You can hear Harris and Biden saying "how are you," and "I love you."

Joe Biden and Jill Biden are holding hands as they enter the White House grounds.

15:33 EST: The motorcade made the short drive across the Memorial Bridge, which passes the Lincoln Memorial, toward the White House. Biden's vehicle is nicknamed "The Beast" due to its reinforced armor.

Secret Service officers are walking along with the car is it moves past government buildings along 15th Street NW, close to the White House. Eventually, the car will turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

U.S. President Joe Biden waves through the window of a car during the Inauguration Day parade
U.S. President Joe Biden waves through the window of a car during the Inauguration Day parade

In the past, presidents have exited "The Beast" to walk part of the way.

The car is turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue at the corner of Lafayette Square, the park where protesters for racial justice spent much of the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Floyd was killed by Minnesota police officers in late May.

15:22 EST: Biden and Harris' motorcade has left the cemetery and is on the way to the White House, where he will arrive for the first time as president. The White House staff has a very short time to prepare for his arrival in his new home.

US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)

14:42 EST: Biden and Harris have arrived, along with the former presidents, at Arlington Cemetery.

14:05 EST: Biden and Harris and their partners walk down the steps enter cars. They will move next to Arlington National Cemetery for a memorial. They will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

13:58 EST: Biden and Harris appear at the steps of the Capitol for the "pass in review."

13:43 EST: On the floor of the Capitol Building, Biden and Harris are welcomed by the leaders of the Senate and the House. Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are speaking. The Biden and Harris were given crystal vases made in Pennsylvania, the U.S. state where Biden was born. They are presented with a painting, as well.

Traditionally there would be a welcome luncheon where the newly inaugurated president and vice president would appear in front of the U.S. Congress.

Pelosi presents Biden with the flag that was flown over the Capitol while he was inaugurated, not 100 minutes earlier.

Biden and Harris are given framed photos of their inaugurations.

13:31 EST: After signing documents inside the Capitol Building and being received by members of congress, Biden will view members of the U.S. military.

This is called a “Pass in Review.” It symbolizes the peaceful transition of power from one commander in chief to another. The soldiers are being prepared for review.

12:32 EST: Biden, Harris and their partners begin the process of leaving the inauguration. Later Wednesday they will go with the past presidents to Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from the Capitol, to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

12:25 EST: Rev. Silvester Beaman, the pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware gives the benediction. A benediction is a prayer that asks for God’s blessing.

Beaman mentions that they are standing in front of a building built by slaves.

12:20 EST: Amanda Gorman, 22, is reciting the inaugural poem, called “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman is the youngest person to recite an inaugural poem in memory. She attended Harvard University.

"History has its eyes on us," says Gorman. It is a memorable line from the hit musical "Hamilton."

12:14 EST: Biden's address concludes with "May God bless America, and may God protect out troops." Country singer Garth Brooks is introduced to sing "Amazing Grace."

You may remember one signature moment of Barack Obama's presidency was singing "Amazing Grace" at the memorial service for Black church-goers killed by a white man in South Carolina in 2015.

11:52 EST: Klobuchar introduces Joe Biden as U.S. president for the first time. He begins his inaugural address by saying "this is a day of hope, of renewal and resolve." He says "the will of the people has been heard. ... At this hour, democracy has prevailed."

Biden says "politics doesn't have to be a raging fire. ... We must reject the culture where facts themselves are manipulated, or even, manufactured."

Biden pledges "to be a president for all Americans."

He references the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has killed over 400,000 Americans in less than a year. He said "we will get through this together."

Biden promises to engage with the world again, dismissing the Trump administration's move to "turn inward," calling that "not the answer."

He asks those in attendance to join in a moment of silence to honor the Americans who have died during the pandemic.

"THIS IS DEMOCRACY'S DAY": See the full text of Biden's address

11:48 EST: Biden takes the oath of office, following the prompts of John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. This is the fourth time Roberts has administered the oath.

Here is the oath:

“I, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Biden added "So help me, God."

Words in the Oath

solemn- adj. very serious or formal in manner, behavior, or expression

faithful- adj. having or showing true and constant support or loyalty

execute- v. to do (something that you have planned to do or been told to do)

preserve- v. to keep (something) safe from harm or loss

11:44 EST: Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez sings "This Land is Your Land," written by folk singer Woody Guthrie. She also sings "America the Beautiful." She finishes by saying, in Spanish "one nation, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all."

Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President.
Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President.

11:41 EST: The first person sworn in today is Kamala Harris. U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor administers the oath.

11:40 EST: Andrea Hall recites the Pledge of Allegiance. She is a firefighter from South Fulton, Georgia, near Atlanta. She became a captain in 2004. She was the first Black woman in that position. The area voted heavily for the Biden-Harris ticket in November, part of the reason Biden won the state.

Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at the Biden Inauguration
Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at the Biden Inauguration

11:35 EST: She performed at the Super Bowl. She has been in a major movie. Now Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at the U.S. Capitol.

11:30 EST: The Rev. Leo O’Donovan gives the invocation. He presided over the funeral of Joe Biden’s son, Beau, in 2015. An invocation in this context is a prayer asking for a blessing, or guidance, at the beginning of a ceremony.

Biden is only the second Catholic to become U.S. president. John F. Kennedy was the first.

11:25 EST: The first speaker is Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota. She was one of the people running against Joe Biden for the Democratic party's nomination in the primaries. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris were also candidates in the primaries.

11:19 EST: Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at the West side of the Capitol Building. The crowd applauds their arrival. Biden will remain President-elect until he takes the oath of office. Donald Trump is still president until then. He is now in the state of Florida.

11:12 EST: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, arrive. They were joined by Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer who is credited with leading rioters away from the Senate chambers on Jan. 6.

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, Jan. 20, 2021.
U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, Jan. 20, 2021.

11:00 EST: News reports say President Trump arrived on Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida. He will remain president until Biden says the oath. About one hour from now.

10:55 EST: The U.S. Supreme Court justices arrive. Both Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer oaths of office.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush arrive for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush arrive for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)


10:50 EST: The former presidents in attendance are Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Learn more about America's Presidents.

10:36 EST: The U.S. Marine Band is playing the music that accompanies the inauguration. It has played at every inauguration since Thomas Jefferson in 1801. Another band that will play is from Howard University, a historically Black college attended by Vice President Kamala Harris was there in the 1980s. It is located about five kilometers from the White House.

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrive ahead of the inauguration of Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (
President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrive ahead of the inauguration of Biden, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. (

10:28 EST: Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff have arrived at the U.S. Capitol. The group waves before entering the building.

10:05 EST: The inauguration dignitaries are arriving on the East side of the Capitol Building. The designers intended this as the "front" since it is across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court. However, many people think the West side of the building is the "front," because it faces the Lincoln Memorial.

9:55 EST: The group of former U.S. presidents arriving at the U.S. Capitol will not include Jimmy Carter, who was inaugurated in 1977. It is the first inauguration he will miss. He is 96.

President-elect Joe Biden is joined his wife Jill Biden as they celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President-elect Joe Biden is joined his wife Jill Biden as they celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

8:55 EST: President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, attend church service at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. With them are Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and her husband, Douglas Emhoff.

Biden is the second Catholic to be elected as U.S. president. The 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was the first.

Congressional leaders, including Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Chuck Schumer, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, join them for the traditional service.

8:18 EST: Marine One leaves The White House with outgoing President Donald Trump. Trump is not the first U.S. president to miss his successor's inauguration. Three other one-term presidents, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson also did not attend their successors' inauguration. Johnson, like Trump, was impeached while serving as president.

8:05 EST: Welcome to VOA Learning English's coverage of the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala D. Harris.

Biden will soon be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. And Harris will be the first Black woman - as well as the first Asian-American - to become Vice President of the United States.

Some information to get you ready for Inauguration Day:

Dan Friedell and Hai Do wrote this blog for Learning English with contributions from The Associated Press.

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