Joe Biden's first day as president was full of traditional ceremonies and events in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

By Ashley Boucher
January 20, 2021 06:11 PM
President Joe Biden (center), with Vice President Kamala Harris (right), as he signs three documents including an Inauguration declaration, cabinet nominations and sub-cabinet nominations on Wednesday.
| Credit: JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Joe Biden was sworn in as president on Wednesday shortly before noon and then kept on going.

His ceremony at the U.S. Capitol included the historic swearing-in of Vice President Kamala Harris, performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks, a powerful poem from Amanda Gorman and an inaugural address from Biden urging unity in the wake of deadly rioting by Trump supporters two weeks ago.

"This is America's day. This is democracy's day," Biden, 78, said, speaking to the nation for the first time as president and calling for the country to "start afresh."

"America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge," he continued later in his speech. "Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a case: a case of democracy. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded."

"Democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," he said.

Joe Biden (left) is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at his inauguration Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.
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Vice President Kamala Harris takes the oath of office
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After the inauguration ceremony concluded, Biden and his wife, new First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, attended the the Capitol Rotunda gift-giving ceremony where Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt presented a painting that Dr. Biden had chosen for the occasion.

The work, donated by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is "Landscape with Rainbow" by Robert S. Duncanson, a Black artist prominent in the 1800s.

"I like the rainbow, good things to follow," Dr. Biden, 69, reportedly said at the event.

Inauguration gift-giving ceremony
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President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris
| Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty
The inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol
| Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty

While at the Capitol, President Biden signed an inauguration declaration as well as documents that made his cabinet nominations and sub-cabinet nominations official in the President's Room at the Capitol.

Before leaving for a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony, Biden and Harris watched as military bands marched by in the traditional "Pass in Review," a ceremony presenting every branch to their new commander in chief.

At Arlington, Biden and Harris stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider along with former Presidents Barack ObamaGeorge W. BushBill Clinton and former First Ladies Michelle ObamaLaura Bush and Hillary Clinton.

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris
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Former U.S. President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and former U.S. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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Biden traveled back to D.C. after the somber occasion, where he received an escort to the White House that was followed by a virtual "Parade Across America," reflecting health concerns amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ninety-three-year-old Charlie Brotman, who began announcing inaugural parades in 1949 with President Harry Truman, voiced the in-person elements of Biden's escort from the Capitol to the White House.

The escort in D.C. featured drum lines from the University of Delaware and Howard University, the president and vice president's respective alma maters.

Finally, the president and Dr. Biden arrived at the White House with family members. Because of the ongoing pandemic, there were no spectators on the National Mall, which has instead been decorated with thousands of flags to represent those who could not attend.

President Joe Biden greets Al Roker during the parade
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President Joe Biden walks down Pennsylvania Avenue with his family to the White House
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As other presidents have done before him on day one of their administrations, Biden wasted no time getting to his work: He signed several executive orders Wednesday afternoon after the escort, with the goal of reversing many of predecessor Donald Trump's actions, The New York Times reported.

He also swore in some appointees.

President Joe Biden signed executive orders in the Oval Office soon after he was sworn in
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Vice President Kamala Harris reads the oath of office to Sens. Raphael Warnock, Alex Padilla and Jon Ossoff
| Credit: Senate TV

Harris, meanwhile, returned to the Capitol to swear in new Sens. Jon Ossoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla, who is taking her seat in California.

Biden and Harris will both expected to appear later Wednesday night at the Celebrating America primetime special featuring performances from Demi Lovato, John Legend, Justin Timberlake and several more stars.