Inauguration Day 2021: One for the History Books

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Wednesday, Jan 20 2021 by

It feels like it was a lifetime ago that voters went to the polls on November 3 to vote for president, but today, Joe Biden is going to be sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States, and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the 49th Vice President of the United States.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and recent security threats, the pomp associated with the inauguration has been scaled back significantly. This year, there will be a small inauguration outside the Capitol, broadcast across the country, but there will be no luncheon, no parade, and no in-person balls or parties. Instead, much of it will be virtual, and aired on multiple television channels across the country and around the world.

As you watch the proceedings on television, here are some background details you might find interesting.

Past Inaugurations

Typically, the sitting president and vice president meet with the incoming president and vice president at the White House the morning of the inauguration, and travel to the Capitol Building together.

The swearing in on the steps of the Capitol is often watched by half a million people who gather along the Capitol and the Mall, all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.

Later in the day, the new president reviews the troops, participates in a parade along the route to the White House, and officially enters the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to serve as president for the next four years.

Inaugural balls, parties, and other events go on all around Washington, DC, and parties are held across the United States as well.

2021 Inaugural Events

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The evening before the swearing in, there will be a memorial to the people who have died from Covid-19. This event will be held at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, a fitting place to ponder those who have died, and what the country has suffered due to the virus.

Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument (Google Maps)
Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument

U.S. Capitol

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution states that each presidential term shall begin at noon on January 20. The oath can be administered anywhere, but  the ceremony is traditionally held at the U.S. Capitol. The inauguration involves all three branches of government. President Biden will be sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, with many members of Congress present to witness the peaceful transfer of power.

Traditionally, after the inauguration, the presidential parties, and members of the House and Senate, gather for a luncheon inside the Capitol. Due to social distancing issues, this will be skipped, with plans to celebrate in person during the Independence Day events on July 4.

US Capitol Building (Google Maps)
US Capitol Building

West Front of the Capitol

Since Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, presidents have held their inauguration on the West Front of the Capitol. This side has a beautiful view of the city and extends down to the Mall. Hundreds of thousands of people gather and witness the event, either in person or by watching large monitors set up for the occasion.

Joe Biden will continue with the tradition of being sworn into office on the West Front of the Capitol at noon, January 20, 2021. Although it will not be open to the general public, it will be broadcast on national television.

United States Capitol (StreetView)
United States Capitol

East Front of the Capitol

Up until Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, presidents chose to be sworn in on the East Front of the Capitol. This side is attractive and faces the Supreme Court, but doesn’t allow for the large public gathering.

This year, President Biden and Vice President Harris will review the troops, which includes a procession with members from every branch of military. This display will take place on the East Front shortly after the swearing in.

US Capitol (StreetView)
US Capitol

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They will then travel to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. They, along with Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, along with their spouses, will lay a wreath at the Tomb.

Tomb of the Unknowns (Google Maps)
Tomb of the Unknowns

The White House

While the president and his wife would typically participate in a fun parade with participants from across the country, that has been called off due to social distancing restrictions. There will be a virtual parade that highlights places and people from across the United States. At the end, President Biden and his wife Jill will officially enter the White House, making it their official residence for the next four years.

The White House (StreetView)
The White House

Naval Observatory

Vice President Kamala Harris will take up residence in the official vice president’s house located about three miles away from the White House. The vice president long did not have an official residence, unlike the president at the White House.

However, in 1974, a large existing residence at the Naval Observatory was established as the official residence for the vice president. Over the years, substantial renovations and upgrades have been made, including making it handicap-accessible, adding a pool, putting green, and exercise room.

Number One Observatory Circle (Vice President's House) (Birds Eye)
Number One Observatory Circle (Vice President's House)


After the oath of office is administered by the Chief Justice, Donald Trump will become a private citizen again. Unlike nearly every other outgoing president, President Trump has declined the invitation to attend the inauguration. Whenever he leaves the White House, it has been expected that he will travel to Mar-A-Lago, his Florida residence.

The beachside resort has a private residence where the president and his family can stay. The 62,000 square foot mansion sits on 20 acres of prime real estate, which is worth more than $160 million.

Donald Trump's house (Mar-A-Lago) (Birds Eye)
Donald Trump's house (Mar-A-Lago)

Unlike the president, Vice President Pence will attend the inauguration. After, it’s not clear where Mike Pence will go; he was a congressman from Indiana before becoming that state’s governor. His most recent residence before living at the Naval Observatory was the governor’s mansion.

While things will not be as they usually are, the most important thing will be that the United States goes through yet another peaceful transition of power, maintaining her 240 year history of being a peaceful democracy that will continue for another 240 years, so help us God.