While a few aspects of the US Presidential inauguration are set in stone, such as the Oath of Office and the date, many other aspects are left up to the president-to-be. The decisions of those presidents and the culture, ideals, and innovations of the time and made each inauguration special in its own way. Today’s inauguration is anything but an exception. Not only is president-elect Biden being swore in during a global pandemic, first with a female and minority
vice-president, first First Lady with a doctoral degree, the first masquerade themed inauguration, and the first to have the ceremony and capitol guarded by thousands of military and law enforcement personnel as protection from domestic threats. President Trump is not the first president to decline attending the inauguration of a successor. In 1801, President John Adams was the first to refuse to attend the swearing in of President Thomas Jefferson. He was followed by John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson. Actually, the first time both the incoming and outgoing presidents arrived at the ceremony together was in 1837 when Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren rode in the same carriage.
The election itself was filled with challenges, but again, this is not the only one. One of the most dirty and combative elections was the 1828 race between John Quincy Adams (who lost and did not attend the inauguration) and Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s marriage to Rachel Donelson Jackson was brought into legal and moral question by Adams.
After Jackson’s inauguration is when things got really out of hand. Things began as normal on March 4, 1829, when newly inaugurated Andrew Jackson hosted an open house at the White House, a tradition started by Thomas Jefferson. Soon the White House was crammed with over 20,000 party animals basically turning the event into one huge raging house party you might see on a college campus, even down to the washtubs full of juice and whiskey on the front lawn. With social distancing requirement, that is not likely to happen this year.
While I write this post, I am watching the inauguration on live stream. Bill Clinton’s inauguration was the first one to be live streams. This one looks quite different from other’s I have watched. The lack of spectators is quite shocking. This is an extremely historic event regardless of the year, state of the nation, and president and without the thousands of people spectating, it feels someone lack luster. What was not lack luster in the slightest was Lady Gaga’s performance of The National Anthem, J Lo’s performance of America the Beautiful, and Garth Brooke’s performance of Amazing Grace. And the Pledge of Allegiance recited by Fire Captain Andrea Hall who not only led the pledge but also signed it. The poem “The Hill We Climb” was written and presented by Amanda Gorman the youngest inaugural poet. This poem was intense and inspirational, and just simply amazing. Along with the many firsts of today our first minority and female Vice President was given the oath by Sonia Sotomayor the first Latina justice in the Supreme Court. The entire ceremony went off as planned, peacefully, happily, and with a little bit of snow magic. “Democracy has prevailed” (President Biden Inauguration Speech)
The past year has seen an unprecedented amount of upheaval, tragedy, and all-around crazy events. 2021 did not start off, as many had hoped, with a chance for a new start. Hopefully, the new leadership in the country will help to initiate a new and better 2021. I hope to see the unity President Biden called for in his speech. This inauguration both lives within the words of Ronald Reagan and expands upon them. The 59th Presidential Inauguration was indeed “commonplace and miraculous”.
*Photos taken as screenshots by me while watching the inauguration on the Biden Inauguration Committee Youtube Channel*
Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram