President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president, while Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will become the first woman and person of color to hold that office in the U.S. when the historic 59th presidential inauguration takes place Wednesday.
The theme will be “America United,” an issue that was a central focus for the Biden-Harris ticket during the campaign.
The theme “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,” according to the announcement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation and world since last year, as well as the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a mob that sought to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, this year’s event will look much different than any other in U.S. history.
For starters, there won’t be the usual large crowd of revelers descending on the National Mall to watch in person.
In fact, due to the ongoing threat of violence in Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the riot, Americans are being flat-out told not to travel to the nation’s capital. Both the National Mall and the Washington Monument have temporarily closed to the public.
But there will be a large National Guard presence at the event and across the city, as more than 20,000 troops have been deployed to bolster security.
The inauguration itself will also look different, with the typical parade and inaugural balls giving way to safer virtual celebrations.
Here’s what to expect on Wednesday:
Jan. 20 schedule
7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. PT: Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans
Entertainer and advocate Keke Palmer will host the the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s first-ever livestream for young Americans before and during the inaugural ceremonies. The livestream include a special message from first lady Jill Biden and feature commentary from historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Doug Emhoff, America’s first second gentleman, will participate in a trivia segments question produced by the Library of Congress. Additionally, there will be a segment on presidential pets produced by Nickelodeon and excerpts of student voices from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs’ “We the Young People” programming.
The event can be watched online at BidenInaugural.org/youth as well as the committee’s YouTube channel.
Estimated to start at 9 a.m. PT or after: Inaugural ceremonies
Like their predecessors, Biden and Harris will take their oaths of office outside the Capitol Building. After, the newly sworn-in president will deliver his inaugural address, “laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation,” according to the inauguration’s website.
Coronavirus health and safety measures will be in place, and attendance will be limited, mostly to those currently in Congress. President Donald Trump will not be at the event, but former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are expected to attend.
Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks will perform. Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, of Los Angeles has been chosen to do a reading at the inauguration.
This and other inaugural events will be carried live on KTLA and KTLA.com.
TBD: Pass in Review
(Editor’s note: The inaugural committee has not released specific times for all parts of the event.)
Biden and Harris will then complete the traditional “Pass in Review” inspection of troops from all service branches, a longstanding military tradition that symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power to a new Commander in Chief.
TBD: Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery
The Bidens, Harris and Emhoff will then head to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by Obama, Bush and Clinton, as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton.
TBD: Presidential Escort
Afterwards, Biden will receive a presidential escort to the White House, with every branch of the military represented. Among those taking part in the escort: the U.S. Army Band, a Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and Drum Corps from the 3rd U.S. Infantry “The Old Guard.”
It will be joined by the drumlines from the University of Delaware and Howard University — the alma maters of Biden and Harris — which will then kick off the virtual parade.
Around 12:15 p.m. PT: Virtual Parade Across America
Biden’s escort to the White House will be followed by the televised virtual “Parade Across America.” The committee says the parade will feature dynamic and diverse performances from all 56 states and territories.
Actor, director, and producer Tony Goldwyn will host the parade, which will feature performers and athletes, including Jon Stewart, New Radicals, Olympians Nathan Chen, Allyson Felix, and Katie Ledecky, and viral sensation skateboarder Nathan Apodaca.
8:30 p.m. ET/PT: Celebrating America Primetime Special
The day’s festivities will conclude with primetime television special hosted by Tom Hanks that will feature remarks from the new president and vice president, along with performances by Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake.
Others taking part in the 90-minute event include Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will will recite a class work, and Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, José Andrés and Dolores Huerta.
More on the schedule of events can be found on the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s website.