What happens when, and who’ll be there: Your guide to Biden inauguration day

Joe Biden is today being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States – part of an inauguration ceremony he hopes will start a national healing process after four divisive years.

The new president and his inaugural committee plan to showcase diversity, emphasising “the beginning of a new national journey, one that restores the soul of America and brings Americans together”.

Here is your guide to the events throughout the day and night.

Workers put up bunting for the inauguration in front of the White House
Image:Workers put up bunting for the inauguration in front of the White House. Pic: AP

What and when – and who?

Donald Trump will leave the White House for the final time in the morning and is expected to head to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.

As he heads south, the build-up in Washington DC begins for his successor’s swearing-in ceremony.

Live updates on the final preparations for Joe Biden’s inauguration

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘We pray for the new administration’

Events start at around 11am local time (4pm GMT) with the invocation, read by the Reverend Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest who is the former president of Georgetown University and a close friend of the Biden family.

Next is the Pledge of Allegiance, read this year by Andrea Hall, the first black female firefighter to become captain of the Fire Rescue Department in South Fulton, Georgia.

Then comes the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, sung by Lady Gaga, who campaigned with Mr Biden on domestic violence when he was vice president and campaigned for him in the 2020 election.

Watch and follow events on Sky News from 1pm, with the inauguration ceremony starting at 4pm

Lady Gaga performs during a drive-in rally for Joe Biden
Image:Gaga also performed during a drive-in rally for Joe Biden . Pic: AP

Amanda Gorman, America’s first Youth Poet Laureate, will read a poem she has written for the occasion called The Hill We Climb.

She will be followed by performances by Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks.

A long-time friend of the Biden family, the Reverend Silvester Beaman, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, will deliver a benediction.

Mr Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president shortly after noon US time (about 5pm GMT).

President-elect Joe Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, are to be sworn in on Wednesday
Image:Kamala Harris (left) will be sworn in by the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Pic: AP

As is tradition, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, will administer the oath of office to Mr Biden.

He will take the oath with his hand on his 127-year-old family Bible, held by his wife, Jill.

Ms Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court.

She will use two Bibles, one that belonged to a close family friend and another that belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice, and one of her heroes.

Then comes Mr Biden’s first presidential address to the country, expected to last just over 20 minutes.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Trump snubbing inauguration ‘a good thing’

Star power

Remember 2016, when some big names turned down invitations to perform for Donald Trump, aghast at his shock victory over Hollywood’s political heartthrob, Hillary Clinton?

No such issues for his successor, with organisers having bagged some of the world’s biggest stars.

As if having Gaga perform the national anthem wasn’t enough, Jennifer Lopez and country music star Garth Brooks, who also played Barack Obama‘s inauguration, will perform.

“They [Gaga and Lopez] represent one clear picture of the grand diversity of our great nation,” his team said in a statement, also noting Gaga’s advocacy of LGBTQ issues, and Lopez’s work raising awareness about the impact of coronavirus on Latinos.

Later on, Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Katy Perry and Foo Fighters are among the acts booked for the evening TV special.

Jennifer Lopez performs at Mohegan Sun during its 15th anniversary celebration in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
Image:Jennifer Lopez is among the performers. Pic: AP


Emphasising the changing mood in Washington, a career firefighter, Andrea Hall, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

She and Amanda Gorman, the inaugural US National Youth Poet Laureate, who will give a poetry reading, are both black.

Two members of the clergy will take part, one of whom, Reverend Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, is a pastor from Mr Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

He and Father Leo O’Donovan are both close to the Biden family.

Ms Gorman will be continuing a tradition – for Democratic presidents – that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

Amanda Gorman, seen in 2019, will read a poem at the Biden/Harris inauguration
Image:Amanda Gorman, seen in 2019, will read a poem at the Biden/Harris inauguration


Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in on the West Front of the US Capitol as usual, but not every tradition will be followed.

Living former presidents usually attend, but there will beno Donald Trump, who has declined to go and may have already arrived in Florida by now.

He becomes the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson in 1869. Vice President Mike Pence will attend, however.

Other previous occupants of the White House – Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton – and their wives will be there, but Jimmy Carter, 96, and his wife Rosalynn Carter will not.

There will be an inspection of the troops at the Capitol, but the traditional parade along Pennsylvania Avenue – the road outside the White House – which usually follows has been cancelled.

Joe Biden will travel to Washington on a special train
Image:Joe Biden was planning to travel to Washington on a special train, but has changed plans over security concerns. Pic: AP

Subscribe to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

Also off this year is the customary lunch that follows the inaugural ceremony, and the inaugural balls have been cancelled.

One of the more prominent inauguration galas, The Creative Coalition’s quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education, is entirely virtual this year.

Members of the National Guard visiting the US Capitol ahead of the inauguration
Image:Members of the National Guard visiting the US Capitol ahead of the inauguration. Pic: AP

No crowds

In a big departure from past inaugurations, the National Mall, where thousands traditionally gather to see the new president sworn in – will be closed to the public on inauguration day due to threats of violence from groups who attacked the Capitol.

Organisers had already announced that they would not be issuing tickets for those who can attend closer to the ceremony, but this latest closure extends to the entire mall area.

Only authorised people will be allowed in, one official said, such as those working on the entertainment programme planned for later in the evening.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Security tightens ahead of inauguration

Heavy security

Up to 25,000 members of the US National Guard are expected to be in the nation’s capital to help provide security, turning the city centre into an armed fortress, with roads closed and barbed wire.

“It’s like a ghost town but with soldiers,” said Dana O’Connor, as she and her husband walked past concrete barriers near the White House on Sunday.

“It’s eerie. It feels super unnatural,” she said.

The 'field of flags' on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial
Image:The ‘field of flags’ on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Pic: AP

The troops’ task is to ensure there is no repeat of the chaos and violence ofthe deadly riotat the US Capitol by making sure no one is there who shouldn’t be.

The deployment reflects continuing anger – and fear – stemming from the attack on Congress by pro-Trump supporters, which resulted in an historic second impeachment for the president.

Only about 8,000 National Guard members were present during Mr Trump’s own inauguration in 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security is also implementing a security lockdown in downtown Washington.

In a sign of the growing anxiety in the city, Mr Biden has decided not to travel there from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, by train.

Barbed wire is placed at Columbus Circle, near the Capitol in Washington. Pic: AP
Image:Barbed wire is placed at Columbus Circle, near the Capitol in Washington. Pic: AP

The TV special

With little in the way of public interaction because of the pandemic, the PIC has organised a prime-time Inauguration Day TV programme entitled “Celebrating America” for the evening.

It will air between 8.30pm and 10pm coast to coast (after 1am Thursday GMT), featuring remarks by Mr Biden and Kamala Harris, celebrity performances and segments highlighting “America’s resiliency”.

Hosted by Tom Hanks, it will include performances by Foo Fighters, John Legend, and Bruce Springsteen from iconic locations across the country.

Tom Hanks hosts the inauguration prime-time TV special
Image:Tom Hanks will host the inauguration prime-time TV special. Pic: AP

Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons. Katy Perry and Jon Bon Jovi will also play the show – which aims to “celebrate the beginning of a new national journey toward an America united”.

Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington will introduce segments throughout the night ranging from stories of young people making a difference in their communities, to musical performances.

John Legend appears at a photo call for "Underground" during the WGN America 2016 Winter TCA on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Image:John Legend will perform in the TV special. Pic: AP

The programme showcases “the American people’s resilience, heroism, and unified commitment to coming together as a nation to heal and rebuild”.

The show will be carried live by major broadcasters ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC as well as being streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch and Amazon Prime Video.

The committee said in a statement: “This inauguration represents the beginning of a new national journey, one that restores the soul of America and brings Americans together.”

Actress Eva Longoria speaks during a Hispanic Heritage Month event featuring Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Image:Longoria supported Biden and Harris, and spoke during a Hispanic Heritage Month event during their campaign. Pic: AP

Five-day celebration

There is also a series of events over five days under the banner of “America United”.

It began on Monday with “United We Serve”, a National Day of Service on what is Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Tuesday saw a nationwide COVID-19 Memorial to Lives Lost.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Pelosi marks 400k US COVID deaths

As well as the inaugural ceremonies, Wednesday has a wreath-laying service at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

The customary parade along Pennsylvania Avenue has been replaced with a “Parade Across America”.

A public art display, named “Field Of Flags”, made up of 191,500 US flags and 56 pillars of light, will cover part of the National Mall to represent every US state and territory and those unable to travel to the capital.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *