On January 20, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are getting long-awaited job promotions. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, while Harris will make history as the first female, Black, and South Asian vice president when both take their oaths at the Capitol.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and recent attacks on the Capitol impose new threats on the event, the 2021 presidential inauguration will look unlike any other in recent history. The theme for this year’s proceedings is “America United,” the Biden administration announced. “At a time of unprecedented crisis and deep divisions, America United reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together, and creates a path to a brighter future,” Biden’s inaugural committee said in a statement, via NBC News.
Ahead, here’s how to watch the inauguration and its star-studded performances, plus how the events will be kept safe amid COVID-19 and safety concerns.
How do I watch?
The 2021 presidential inauguration will take place in its traditional location of the U.S. Capitol at 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday, January 20. Coverage of the event will begin at 9 a.m. ET and be broadcast on nearly every major network, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, PBS, Telemundo, Univision, and MSNBC. You can watch on the official White House website and via the Biden Inaugural Committee YouTube livestream below.
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The inauguration will also be available to stream live on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Prime Video, and C-SPAN, as well as multiple network’s YouTube channels. Live streaming options are also available via media outlets, including NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, qz.com, and NPR.org.
All of the post-inauguration festivities, including the parade and inaugural ball, will air as part of a television special titled Celebrating America. Hosted by Tom Hanks, the special will air that same evening from 8:30 p.m to 10 p.m. ET on all of the above platform platforms and YouTube channels. It’s also available at both youtube.com/bideninaugural and twitch.tv/inauguration2021.
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Who is performing?
After Donald Trump received several rejections from artists regarding invites to perform at his inauguration, Biden’s will be a return to form. Two former Super Bowl halftime performers will sing at the swearing-in. Lady Gaga is slated to perform the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will also perform music at the event. Meanwhile, firefighter Andrea Hall will recite the Pledge of Allegiance and Andrea Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, will read a poem. The traditional invocation will be performed by Father Leo O’Donavon and benediction by Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, according to a tweet from Biden’s inaugural committee.
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As for Celebrating America, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, and Ant Clemons are all scheduled to contribute musical performances.
How are they keeping the Capitol and events safe?
In yet another departure from previous years, President Trump has already made it clear that neither he, nor any members of his family, will be present at the inauguration. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be in attendance, as well as every living former president, besides 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, the Associated Press reports. Per tradition, Biden and Harris (along with their spouses) will lay a wreath atop the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony. They will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton.
Drama surrounding the guest list follows insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and a motion to impeach Trump from office for his role in the riots. That historic day, as well as the ongoing pandemic, have forced Biden’s inaugural committee to make some modifications. “I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Biden told reporters on Monday, per Politico. Still, the Pentagon has deployed up to 15,000 members of the National Guard to Washington D.C. in anticipation of the event. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser also asked spectators to stay away from federal buildings in the area and requested that Trump authorize a pre-emergency declaration.
Additionally, inauguration attendees will wear masks and normally crowded events such as the parade will go virtual. CNN reports that TSA security for incoming D.C. flights will intensify. D.C. Airbnb reservations for inauguration week will also be cancelled, according to NPR, in compliance with officials’ urging to stay home.
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