Former Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama Reunite for Joe Biden's Inauguration

Joe Biden's inauguration was a rare meeting of the "former President's club"

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama arrive at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden
From left: George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack and Michelle Obama at Wednesday's presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The exclusive former president's club gathered at the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday morning to witness President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the oath of office.

The group of former U.S. presidents are rarely together, with the exception of ceremonies such as the openings of presidential libraries, funerals and Inauguration Day.

Shortly before noon local time, Biden, 78, was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

Most of Biden's predecessors — Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush — were seated in the crowd to watch him take the oath, with the exception of former President Jimmy Carter and departing President Donald Trump.

Carter, 96, has spent the coronavirus pandemic at home in Plains, Georgia. But the 39th president sent his "best wishes." Trump refused to attend the event after months of peddling lies about his election loss, gave a self-congratulatory speech upon leaving the White House and was already inside his private Mar-A-Lago club in Florida by the time Biden took his oath.

The Obamas, Bushes, Clintons, and other prominent American political families attended the ceremony, however, along with former Vice President Mike Pence. The presidents cordially greeted one another, with nods, fist bumps, and waves "hello."

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden greets former U.S. President <a href="https://people.com/tag/barack-obama" data-inlink="true">Barack Obama</a> upon arriving to Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today's inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Joe Biden (left) and Barack Obama share a first bump at Biden's inauguration. Drew Angerer/Getty
fist bump greetings
Former President George W. Bush greets Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Rob Carr/Getty

Obama gave Biden a fist bump when they greeted each other upon the Obamas' arrival. "Congratulations to my friend, President @JoeBiden! This is your time," the 59-year-old former president tweeted, congratulating Biden on being sworn into office.

Clinton, 74, also tweeted his congratulations minutes after Biden took the oath and delivered his first remarks as the new president. Clinton called the inauguration "a ceremony that has affirmed our democracy and celebrated the best of what America stands for."

"I send my congratulations, best wishes, and prayers as they begin their important work," Clinton added. Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, said she was "so excited" to witness Biden's swearing-in on Wednesday, along with the cast of former first couples.

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (L) and incoming Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff speak with Former US President <a href="https://people.com/tag/barack-obama" data-inlink="true">Barack Obama</a> as they arrive for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff greet former President Barack Obama. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty
Joe Biden is sworn in as U.S. President as his wife Dr. Jill Biden looks on during his inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC
Joe Biden (left) is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at his inauguration Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Alex Wong/Getty
Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President of the United States as her husband Doug Emhoff looks on during the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington
Vice President Kamala Harris takes the oath of office. Rob Carr/Getty

The five living former presidents previously joined together in 2017 when they raised $42 million for hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands. Trump did not make a personal appearance at the hurricane relief concert -- instead, he sent a two-minute pre-recorded video.

A year later, Trump was given a reportedly chilly reception by his presidential predecessors when he arrived at the December 2018 funeral of George H.W. Bush, the AP reported.

In a 2019 interview with Kate Anderson Bower, author of Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump, Trump was asked how he saw himself fitting in with the President's Club. "I don't think I'll fit in very well," he said, according to Bower. "I'm a different kind of president."

On Wednesday, the presidents who did choose to attend Biden's swearing-in all followed the new commander-in-chief to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. There, the presidents are expected to lay a wreath, honoring fallen U.S. military members and showing the nation an image aimed to inspire unity.

"Let's start afresh — all of us," Biden said in his first speech as president Wednesday, adding, "America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge."

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