What is different this year?
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jan. 6 deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol — two Champaign County residents facing federal charges are accused of breaching the Capitol building during the riot — this Inauguration Day is expected to be unlike any other in American history.
First will be the crowd size. Usually, 200,000 tickets are distributed to Congress members, who in turn pass them out to their constituents. This year, just more than 1,000 tickets were available — one for each of the 535 members of Congress plus one guest each.
Second, the Inauguration Day Parade was canceled and replaced by a virtual “Parade Across America.” Biden will still have the traditional presidential escort, but without a cheering crowd. One area marching band, from Kenton Ridge High School in Clark County, will perform during the parade event. It will be one of five school bands from across the country.
Lastly, security will be at an all-time high for Inauguration Day. The National Mall and Washington Monument are closed to the public and about 21,000 National Guard members will assist the U.S. Secret Service, Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement agencies. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine initially said 200 Ohio National Guard soldiers and airmen would be activated in preparation of Inauguration Day but following requests for more reinforcement said 700 would go to Washington.
Who is participating?
The Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest and former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation. Andrea Hall, a Georgia firefighter, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem. Amanda Gorman, who was the first youth national poet laureate, will give a poetry reading, and Garth Brooks and Jennifer Lopez are expected to give musical performances. Wilberforce University graduate the Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African American Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, will deliver the benediction.
“We are thrilled to announce an inspired group of dynamic participants for the 59th inaugural ceremonies. They represent one clear picture of the grand diversity of our great nation and will help honor and celebrate the time-honored traditions of the presidential inauguration,” the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on its website.
Which presidents will attend?
Past Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama will attend today’s events. The oldest living former president, Jimmy Carter said he will not travel to Washington, D.C., but extended his “warm wishes” to Biden, a spokeswoman for the Carter Center said. It will be the first Inauguration Day 96-year-old Carter has missed since he took the oath of office in 1977.
President Donald Trump has said he will not attend the ceremony, which would make him the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to refuse to attend his successor’s swearing in. However, Vice President Mike Pence has said he will be present.