WASHINGTON, D.C. – Among those attending the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., were newly elected junior Kansas U.S. Senator Roger Marshall and his wife Laina.
“Today, my wife Laina and I joined all Americans to witness the constitutional transition of power to President Joe Biden,” said Marshall, a Great Bend Republican who replaced the retiring Pat Roberts. “It is important that both sides of the political spectrum continue to lower the national temperature and recognize opportunities for common good.”
Biden became the 46th president on Wednesday, declaring that “democracy has prevailed” as he took the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherited a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.
Biden’s inauguration came at a time of national tumult and uncertainty, a ceremony of resilience as the hallowed American democratic rite unfurled at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago. The chilly Washington morning was dotted with snow flurries, but the sun emerged just before Biden took the oath of office, the quadrennial ceremony persevering even though it was encircled by security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden said. “This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”
Marshall, a two-term First District congressman who won his Senate seat Nov. 3, remains cautiously optimistic.
“I have hope that we can work with the new Administration on behalf of Kansas as we tackle extremely pressing issues facing our nation including: getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of everyone who wants and needs it, boosting job recovery, and opening businesses and our economy back up to the historic levels we saw before the pandemic,” he said.
In addition to Biden being sworn in, Harris became the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.
The two were sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels in history.
Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the Republican president, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.
“Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people,” Biden said. “To stop the work of our democracy. To drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever. Not ever.”
Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike Pence, standing in for Trump, sat nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a gold microphone, sang the National Anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.
Biden oversaw a “Pass in Review,” a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Later, Biden, Harris and their spouses were to be joined by that trio of former presidents to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.
Still later, Biden was to join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year’s parade was to be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.
In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Earlier in the day, Biden and Harris joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to attend a socially distanced prayer service near the Capitol.
Outgoing President Donald Trump is the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. In a cold wind, Marine One took off from the White House and soared above a deserted capital city to his own farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews. There, he boarded Air Force One for the final time as president for the flight to his Florida estate.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.