Joe Biden will swear the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States.
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The very ceremony in which presidential power is transferred, a hallowed American democratic tradition, will serve as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces evocative of those in a war zone, and devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden will look out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial tensions.
You can watch the ceremony live here —
President Donald Trump departed the White House on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol.
Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around their dislike of Trump.
“Biden will face a series of urgent, burning crises like we have not seen before, and they all have to be solved at once. It is very hard to find a parallel in history,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
At age 78, he will be the oldest president inaugurated.
More history will be made at his side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.
The two will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels in history.
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Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.
The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Lincoln, who was secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Roosevelt’s inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.
Biden declined to move the ceremony indoors and instead will address a small crowd on the West Front of the Capitol. Some of the traditional trappings of the quadrennial ceremony will remain.
The day will begin with a reach across the aisle. Biden invited Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leaders of the Senate and House, to join him at a morning Mass, along with Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders.
Once at the Capitol, Biden will be administered the oath by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The theme of Biden’s approximately 30-minute speech will be “America United,” and aides said it would be a call to set aside differences during a moment of national trial.
Biden will then oversee a “Pass in Review,” a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Then, Biden, Harris and their spouses will be joined by a bipartisan trio of former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.
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Later, Biden will join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year’s parade will be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.
In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the Capitol earlier in the day.
Trump will be the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. In a cold wind, Marine One took off from the White House and soared to his own farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews. There, he boarded Air Force One for the final time as president for the flight to his Florida estate.
Trump will nonetheless shadow Biden’s first days in office.
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That could test the ability of the Senate, poised to come under Democratic control, to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet choices.
The Associated Press contributed to this article