Here’s what to expect at Joe Biden’s inauguration

After 36 years representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate, and eight years as vice president, Joe Biden’s journey to the White House officially starts today.

While plans were already in place for a bare bones ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic, the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 restricted activity around D.C. even further. But because the Presidential Inauguration Committee was already producing the inauguration as a made-for-TV event, their plans remain fairly intact.

Usually, the inauguration hands out more than 200,000 official tickets for the closest viewing of the event, with overflow crowds spread along the National Mall. This year, tickets were limited to just 1,000 people, and the National Mall is closed to spectators.

When Biden announced his candidacy in Philadelphia in 2019, he said he would work to unify the nation. Now, as that goal seems even more challenging, expect that theme to carry on through his inaugural address.

That address will follow the ceremonial swearing-in for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at noon. A small crowd of people will be in attendance in-person, including former Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be there as well, but President Trump has said he will not attend.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

To start the ceremony, Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest who once led Georgetown University will deliver the invocation. Firefighter Andrea Hall, the first female firefighter to become captain of the South Fulton Fire Rescue Department in Georgia, will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pop icon Lady Gaga, who campaigned for Biden and teamed up with him on domestic violence issues while he was VP, will sing the national anthem. America’s first Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will recite a poem she’s written for the ceremony entitled “The Hill We Climb.” Rev. Silvester Beaman, a pastor from Wilmington, Del., will deliver the benediction after a musical performance from Jennifer Lopez.

Following the swearing-in and inaugural address, Biden and Harris will conduct a Pass in Review with members of every branch of the military. They’ll then move to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Biden will get a military escort back to the White House, accompanied by two drumlines, one from his alma mater, the University of Delaware, and another from Harris’s alma mater, Howard University. That limited, in-person parade will be accompanied by a virtual “Parade Across America” online, featuring musical performances and appearances by TV personalities including former Daily Show host Jon Stewart.

Inauguration Day will end with a special broadcast called “Celebrating America,” which will profile young people making a difference in their communities and feature musical performances by Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Tim McGraw.

The Delaware and Pennsylvania Democrats will host an online celebration commemorating Biden’s connections to both Wilmington and Scranton. The “Biden’s Home States” virtual inauguration event will feature elected officials from both states and musical performances from Jeff Bradshaw and Low Cut Connie. Biden himself is also expected to make an appearance during the online event.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal