President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk through the White House grounds. Photo: @whitehouse on Instagram

On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in to begin serving their four-year terms. Harris made history as the first female, first Black and first Asian American woman to serve as vice president. Former President Donald Trump was not in attendance, but former Vice President Mike Pence was present at the ceremony. The ceremony looked quite different from past inaugurations, as concerns about the pandemic and the attack on the Capitol were at the forefront.

The usual crowd at the National Mall was not possible due to COVID-19, so only around 1,000 members of Congress and guests were able to attend after testing negative for coronavirus the previous day. National Guard troops protected downtown Washington and security was on high alert after the Jan. 6 domestic terror attack on the Capitol.

Performers including Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks took the stage before the president was sworn into office. Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Gorman presented her poem “The Hill We Climb” which reflected on the events of the past year and delivered messages of hope for the future.

In his inaugural address, President Biden remembered the 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. However, he stressed that it was a new day in America and promised to work toward unity of the highly divided American people for the rest of his term. On the very same day he was inaugurated, Biden repealed the Trump administration’s law that restricted immigration from countries with a majority-Muslim population, rejoined the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and rejoined the United Nations World Health Organization.

His policies for his first 100 days in office focus primarily on racial justice, climate change, stopping the spread of COVID-19 and stimulating the economy to help the financial situations of millions of Americans who lost their jobs in 2020. According to TIME, his agenda will “require a level of discipline and organization that the White House has not seen in four years,” and will be even more difficult due to the polarized state of the Senate. 

President Biden plans to have 100 million Americans vaccinated by his 100th day in office, while working alongside a team of established public health experts to make this possible. However, his administration’s first 10 days were spent trying to locate millions of unused doses of vaccine sent out to different states, so the plan is off to a slow start. The vaccine rollout is a federal program all the way to the distribution stage, while the Trump administration let states decide on their own how get the vaccine into people’s arms. Biden aims to have a 100-day mask wearing challenge, depoliticize the wearing of masks and stop the spread of disinformation surrounding COVID-19 and masks in America.

In terms of the economy, the administration is working to improve unemployment insurance, provide $15 billion to small businesses to help their struggling revenues, give $130 billion to schools for the purpose of reopening safely, raise the minimum wage to $15 and extend as much financial relief as possible to struggling Americans. Biden plans to help communities of color who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and prioritize the financing of minority-owned businesses.

Biden and Harris hope to reform the criminal justice system and ensure racial equity and diversity initiatives. Repealing Trump’s harsh immigration laws and positions on climate will also be at the forefront of his agenda.

Top photo: The Capitol and its surroundings are set for the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 20. Photo: @joebiden on Instagram

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