Inaugural ceremonies mark the peaceful transfer of power.  Inaugurals are a time of hope, of reflection on where our country stands, and of celebration.  Shortly before noon on January 20, 2021, in a ceremony at the Capitol, President-elect Joe Biden will the oath of office, becoming the 46th president of the United States.  He will deliver his inaugural address and set to work at governing.

59th Presidential Inaugural: "America United"

The 59th Presidential Inaugural comes at a trying time for the country, which faces both a pandemic and the outgoing president's noncooperative stance.  Due to the pandemic, the inaugural will be a very modest affair, missing much of the traditional festivities.  The official swearing in ceremony at the Capitol is going ahead with greatly  reduced attendance, while Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) organizers have announced events which can be held safely.  According to the PIC, "The ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined."  The theme of the inauguration is "America United."

Putting an additional crimp on festivities, security in the capital is being ramped up significantly beyond what is normal for an Inauguration after the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol (+).  An internal FBI memo warned of the potential for armed protests in all 50 state capitals leading up to the Inauguration. President-elect Biden had planned to take Amtrak to the Inauguration, but that idea was shelved due to security concerns.  The entire National Mall was closed, and the rehearsal scheduled for Jan. 17 was postponed.


Saturday, January 16 2021
America United: An Inauguration Welcome Event
Celebrating America’s Changemakers

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Sunday, January 17, 2021
We The People Concert
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Monday, January 18, 2021
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Tuesday, January 19, 2021


There was much speculation about whether President Trump would, as is the tradition, attend the swearing in ceremony.  It was reported among other possibilities that he was considering holding a campaign-style rally during the Inauguration or that he might go golfing in Scotland.  On Jan. 8 he tweeted, "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th."  Trump did a farewell event at Joint Base Andrews on the morning of Jan. 20 before he and his family boarded Air Force One and flew to Florida (>).

Organizing the Inaugural Activities

Every four years three committees form to organize the inaugural activities. 

The Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTR-NCR), a joint task force of the five Armed Forces branches, is "charged with coordinating all military ceremonial participation and support" for the presidential inauguration.  (Prior to the 2013 inauguration JTR-NCR was known as the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee or AFIC).  For the January 2021 inaugural ceremonies, Army Maj. Gen. Omar J. Jones IV is the commanding general of JTF-NCR.  By January 2021, approximately eight-hundred service personnel, including full-time (PCS/permanent change of station) and personnel on temporary duty, are expected to be working on the task force.  In 2017, including the parade and ceremonial support, some 5,000 service members participated in the Inauguration.  Additionally, the National Guard plays an important role in traffic control and crowd management.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is responsible for all events held at the Capitol (+).  The JCCIC is a committee, established by a congressional resolution, consisting of six leaders of the House and Senate.  For the 2021 inaugural, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is chairing the JCCIC, as he did for 2017.  The JCCIC held its organizational meeting on June 30, 2020, and  construction of the inaugural platform started on Sept. 29.  The FY2020 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, encompassed in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019, funds the JCCIC at $1.5 million and "provides funding for the Inaugural stands and support facilities within the Architect of the Capitol budget; and includes associated overtime and security costs within the Capitol Police budget."

The final piece is the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), charged with organizing events for the Inaugural.  A PIC is formed every four years after the general election and must accomplish most of its work in a period of just two months.  On Nov. 30 President-elect Biden announced leadership of the 59th Presidential Inaugural Committee, headed by CEO Tony Allen, Ph.D. (+).  Maju Varghese, who served as COO and senior advisor on the campaign is executive director.  The PIC raises funds from donations, and typically employs many campaign operatives. 

The PIC sets an inaugural theme.  As noted above, this year's them is "America United."  Past themes have included: "Make America Great Again!" (2017), "Our People, Our Future" (2013), "Renewing America's Promise" (2009), "Celebrating Freedom-Honoring Service" (2005), and "Celebrating America's Spirit Together" (2001).  High-profile publicized events have included concerts and inaugural balls.  The PIC may also put together a few more limited events for donors and supporters.

In addition to the PIC, JCCIC and JTF-NCR, numerous agencies coordinate on security for the events of inaugural week.  Because the Department of Homeland Security designates presidential inaugurals as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), the U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency. 

Complementing the official activities, state societies, interest groups and other organizations traditionally host inaugural balls and events around Washington, DC.  Most such activities were cancelled, curtailed or reconfigured to virtual events due to the pandemic(+).  The District of Columbia did not see the hundreds of thousands of people who would normally make the trip to the capital for an inauguration.  News organizations still devoted significant planning and resources to bringing coverage of what inaugural festivities there were to their audiences (+).