Biden inauguration: Viewer guide to Jan. 20, 2021

Joe Biden to be sworn in as 46th president of United States of America

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Members of the military band participate in a dress rehearsal for the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Joe Biden will be sworn in as 46th president of the United States during an inauguration ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.

Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the first female vice president.

The swearing-ins are expected to happen just after noon Wednesday (ET).

The ceremony

The event is expected to begin around 11 a.m. ET at the West Front of the Capitol. The chief justice, John Roberts, will administer the oath of office to Biden just after the clock strikes 12.

Biden will take the oath with his hand on top of his 127-year-old, 5-inch-thick family Bible, which will be held by his wife, Jill Biden.

Harris, the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American vice president, will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court.

This will happen on the West front of the U.S. Capitol building.

The ceremony lineup includes invocation from Fr. Leo O’Donovan, the Pledge of Allegiance from Andrea Hall, the National Anthem sung by Lady Gaga, a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, a musical performance from Jennifer Lopez, and benediction from Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman.

After they take their oaths of office, President-elect Biden will deliver an inaugural address laying out his vision to “defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation,” according to his inaugural committee.

The theme of his address

The inaugural theme is “America United,” a theme Biden campaigned on and which he is expected to focus on in his speech.


Attendees will include most of Congress and the Supreme Court, as are some former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton also are expected to be there. Jimmy Carter, the country’s oldest living former president at 96, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter will not be there, but they sent their “best wishes.” This will be the first inauguration they have missed since Carter was sworn in in 1977.

President Trump is skipping Biden’s inauguration, a decision Biden said was a “good thing,” though Vice President Mike Pence and his wife plan to attend.

Read more: Trump to leave Washington on morning of Biden’s inauguration

Immediately after the ceremony

The swearing-ins will be followed by a “Pass in Review” to reflect a peaceful transfer of power.

That is followed by the Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery: Biden, Harris and their spouses will visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Then expect the presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House, followed by a virtual “Parade Across America.”

Special COVID inauguration

You can expect this whole inauguration to look different from previous ones due to the COVID safety protocols that will be in place.

Attendees will be socially distanced, and they will have to wear masks.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which is in charge of putting the inaugural together, reduced the number of people who are invited. The committee usually has 200,000 tickets available for members of Congress -- this year they only get two each.


After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters during the Electoral College certification, more than 25,000 National Guard members were called up to keep the inauguration secure. Extra security fencing also has been placed around the Capitol. The White House and numerous streets have been shut down.

In a first, the National Mall is shut down to the public. Attendees will be screened.

Related: Inauguration rehearsal evacuated after fire in homeless camp

Related: Two Guard members removed from Biden inauguration

‘Celebrating America’ primetime special

At 8:30 p.m. Wednesday there will be 90-minute prime-time program -- hosted by Tom Hanks -- featuring remarks from Biden and Harris. This will include remarks and performances.

“Celebrating America” will feature Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Garth Brooks, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Kerry Washington.

You can watch this live on ClickOnDetroit and WDIV-Local 4.

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About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.