All Of The Historical Firsts Of 2021’s Presidential Inauguration


Jan. 21 2021, Published 4:51 a.m. ET

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The presidential inauguration took place at a historic moment in America’s history.

In our 243 years as a nation, America has never faced a dual crisis like the one we are experiencing now. Within the last month alone, the domestic terrorism of white extremists  – fueled by Donald Trump himself – led to an attempted siege of the National Capitol. Five deaths resulted.

Additionally, a federally mismanaged pandemic has led to over 400,000 American deaths. As of this week, more Americans have died from COVID-19 than total U.S. casualties in World War One, Vietnam, and Korea combined (and nearly as many deaths as World War II).

In spite of the volatile state of domestic affairs and their far-reaching implications, today’s inauguration festivities marked a hopeful – albeit mixed- turn for the country. It will also be remembered for its many historical moments. Here are the highlights of the day:

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First Nonpublic Presidential Inauguration In Recent Years

Due to the high-contagion of COVID-19 and the threat of civil unrest from white domestic terrorists, this year’s inauguration ceremony was not open to the public.

This marked a significant change from years past. Since George Washington took his oath on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, presidential inaugurations have been open to the public (exceptions have been made, namely for Vice Presidents who have needed to take the oath due to presidential deaths).

However, predetermined and heavily screened government officials, media, and talent were invited to attend.

First President To Skip Successors Inaguration In 150 Years

By now, we all know the fake news. So there’s no need to spend more energy on it.

However, Trump’s pre-departure marks the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson skipped out on Ulysses Grant ceremony in 1869.

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A Call To Unite & Heal

The inauguration ceremonies marked an intentional shift away from the decisive tactics of the previous presidential administration. The Biden/Harris inauguration theme was to ‘unite’. President Joe Biden called for an end to an uncivil war, urging Americans to heal.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris began this process by honoring the 400,000 dead COVID-19 victims through a memorial service Tuesday night. During his acceptance speech, Biden again asked for a moment of silence to honor those who had passed.

Career Republicans Stand With Biden

Despite strong contestation about the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency from extremist Republican party members and threats of multiple kinds of attacks on the inauguration, many career republicans stood with Biden.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnel forwent Trump’s Whitehouse sendoff to attend a morning mass with Joe Biden. One-term Vice President Mike Pence also attended the events of the day, applauding his replacement, Vice President Kamala Harris, during the inauguration.

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First Black, First South-Asian, First Woman Vice-President Ever

Plenty of glass was shattered during the swearing-in of Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris is a district attorney and former United States senator from California. She served as one of the most established and notable members of the Senate during her time.

As the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris’s achievement not only makes her the first woman Vice President, she is also the first Black person and the first South Asian person, ever, to take on the position.

Harris was sworn in by associate justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. This marked the first swearing-in of a female Vice President by a female supreme court judge.

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Youngest Poet To Perform At The Inauguration

When 22-year-old Amanda Gorman performed her poem, The Hill We Climb, she became the nation’s youngest poet to perform at an inauguration. Gorman quickly stole the show with her evocative words and exquisite storytelling prowess. Gorman not only addressed the current pandemic and racial unrest but rewrote the poem just days before to include vivid scenes from the uprising at the nation’s Capitol. Fittingly with the day’s theme of unity, Gorman called for reconciliation.

Presidential Spouses Also Make Firsts

Dr. Jill Biden also made promising firsts today. As the nation’s first lady, she will be the first of its kind to also be a doctor. Biden is a professor who will teach writing at Northern Virginia community college. She will also be the first, first lady to keep her day job during her husband’s term.

Douglas Emhoff has become America’s first-ever second gentleman. Prior to stepping into this position, he was a successful entertainment lawyer and advocate for social justice.

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Monochromatic Outfit Theme

Did they plan this? The world may never know for sure. But it definitely looks like many of the leading women of the inauguration planned their outfits together in advance. Monochrome was everywhere – from first Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s crisp aqua look to former first Lady Michell Obama’s deep, elegant maroon to Hillary Clinton, the Biden granddaughters, Vice President Kamala Harris, and even J-Lo.

How Will America Respond?

Although the day was bedazzled with many firsts and a repeated call for unity, we will have to wait and see if the new president’s message will prevail, especially for those POC and Black individuals who have had to endure the trying times of the previous administration. Alexandria Morton, a 33-year-old African American woman, and award-winning startup founder explained her own complicated feelings towards the day:

“I felt a sense of pride, elation, relief, and then a resurgence of burden. I was happy to see the representation of women of color in high political office. But, at the same time, I felt the conflicting emotional sense of burden that African American women and POC face as salvation scapegoats.”

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