Like tens of millions of people around the world, Delaware State University president Tony Allen watched helplessly as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol exactly two weeks before Joe Biden would take the oath at the same scene of destruction and mayhem.
But Allen wasn’t just another viewer. He had been pulling double duty for the previous five weeks, as CEO of his former boss Biden’s Presidential lnaugural Committee.
Allen was not deterred
“The events of January 6, they actually gave us more resolve,’’ Allen told WHYY News on Friday. “I had the opportunity to speak with my team that evening and the message was, ‘We will not let tyranny win. And we need to show the world the strength and resilience of our country.’”
The tension from the unrest threatened to jeopardize an inaugural that was already scaled back dramatically as the nation continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.
The physically distanced inaugural and related televised and virtual events went off without a hitch, however, in large part because of copious preparation by Allen’s team and security officials, who called in some 25,000 National Guard troops to ensure that peace prevailed.
Allen said it was a humbling and inspiring experience to oversee the inauguration of his friend Biden, whom he worked for as a speechwriter during Biden’s days in the U.S. Senate.
Beside Biden’s address, two moments stood out for Allen: when Garth Brooks exhorted the approximately 1,000 people in attendance and the hundreds of millions watching at home to sing along with him, and when Wilmington pastor Silvester Beaman gave the rousing and heartfelt benediction.
“There was a spirit in the room when Garth Brooks had us sing Amazing Grace,’’ Allen said.
“And Reverent Beaman just carried that home, and really encapsulated the day.”
Allen met with the newly sworn-in 46th president in the Capitol moments after the ceremony. He said Biden was pleased with the inauguration.
Biden also brought a smile to Allen’s face when he promised to make a presidential visit to Delaware State as soon as possible.
“He was gracious, thoughtful, magnanimous,’’ Allen said. “Just the man I knew and have known.”
Allen said Vice President Kamala Harris also offered warm words, saying the new administration would take pains to support America’s historically Black colleges and universities, like Delaware State.