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A viewer's guide to Joe Biden's inauguration

How Biden's Inauguration Day will differ
How Biden's Inauguration Day will differ from past presidents' 14:03

Washington — President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the nation's 46th president Wednesday, an event that will be unlike any that has preceded it, coming amid the months-long coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented security in response to threats of violence from extremist groups.

Occurring two weeks after a violent mob of President Trump's supporters disrupted Congress's counting of electoral votes in an attempt to block lawmakers from reaffirming his victory, the inauguration will take place at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, with Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath of office to Mr. Biden just before 12 p.m. 

Planning for the event, which is themed "America United," has been ongoing for months, with agencies across the federal government coming together to ensure the peaceful transfer of power proceeds safely.

On the eve of the inauguration, an emotional president-elect departed his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to make the trip to Washington, D.C., declaring that "when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart." After arriving in the nation's capital, he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivered remarks at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool honoring those who lost their lives due to COVID-19. Here is how Mr. Biden will spend Wednesday, as he takes the helm of the nation.


Mr. Biden will begin January 20 with mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, where he will be accompanied by congressional leadership. Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all confirmed to CBS News they will attend.

The church, located blocks from the White House, is historic, as President John F. Kennedy's funeral was held there. Pope Francis also visited the church during his trip to Washington in 2015.


After church, Mr. Biden will head to the East Front of the Capitol, where he will enter the building where he served more than three decades as a senator and later presided over the Senate when he was vice president.  

Among those attending his swearing-in are three former presidents and their wives: President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Dan Quayle.

For the first time in more than 150 years, the current president will not be in attendance, as he announced January 8 his plans to skip Mr. Biden's inauguration. Instead, Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will depart the White House on Wednesday morning for a send-off at Joint Base Andrews. Mr. Trump will then board Air Force One for the final time as president and head to Palm Beach, Florida.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice, will administer the oath of office to Harris, making her the first woman and first Black vice president. Harris will use two Bibles: One belonging to Regina Shelton, who she considers to be a second mother, and the other belonging to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.

Roberts will administer the oath of office for Mr. Biden. The president-elect is expected to use his family's five-inch-thick Bible, which he has used each time he's been sworn into office.

Now, as president, Mr. Biden will deliver his inaugural address.

Farewell and ceremonies

Following the swearing-in, Mr. Biden, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will bid farewell to Pence and second lady Karen Pence.

The president will then participate in a signing ceremony, during which Mr. Biden will sign nominations, memorandums, proclamations or executive orders, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. After the signing ceremony, the president will participate in a gift ceremony.

Capping the inaugural ceremonies at the Capitol is the Pass in Review, during which Mr. Biden and Harris will review the military troops on the East Front of the Capitol.

Wreath laying

Mr. Biden and Harris will head to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in one of the president-elect's first acts as commander-in-chief.

There, they will be joined by Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama.

Inauguration Day parade

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biden will participate in a shortened parade, receiving a presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House.

Joining the presidential escort will be drumlines from the University of Delaware and Howard University, as well as representatives from each branch of the military.

The new first family will then walk up the driveway at the White House, their home for the next four years.

"Celebrating America" concert

Capping the day's events is a star-studded, 90-minute concert called "Celebrating America," hosted by Tom Hanks. Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Demi Lovato will perform during the primetime event, and both Mr. Biden and Harris are slated to speak.

Ed O'Keefe, Nancy Cordes and Kimberly Brown contributed to this report

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