As former Vice President Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th U.S. president Wednesday morning, his inauguration leaves students with mixed feelings on what to expect in the next four years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing polarization across the nation.
The ceremony, set to begin at 11 a.m., will be broadcast live for millions of people who have had their lives impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of thousands gathering at the National Mall to witness the event, a field of flags has been assembled in the same place to represent all those who can’t physically attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C.
While the occasion will look different from years past, it won’t prevent some students from witnessing the historic moment.
“Seeing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being sworn in on Inauguration Day will definitely be something I will never forget since I worked on the campaign to help get them there,” Phoenix Macaranas, membership chairperson of the USF College Democrats, said. “This Inauguration Day will be one of unity and healing. I am looking forward to what Biden’s administration will accomplish.”
Macaranas said the start of Biden’s presidency is a sign of “relief” for many as they endured the hardships caused by COVID-19 and the growing polarization nationwide. For them, Biden’s inauguration will represent a new chapter in American history.
“I expect to see an inauguration conducted with health and safety in mind,” Macaranas said. “Safety from the pandemic and attacks is the most important concern at this time. I expect an inauguration that demonstrates the new administration’s optimism and preparation for the future.”
In light of racial and social issues brought to light over the past year, junior Nathan Chui said he is pleased to witness the start of Biden’s presidency and the implementation of his initiatives.
“I feel grateful that after four years, we will once again have a real president,” Chui said. “One who isn’t a raging egomaniac willing to disregard democratic norms and the will of the people whenever it suits him. One who eschews populism and denounces racism and xenophobia. One who cares about addressing deep systemic inequalities. One who respects our scientific institutions and values the consensus of experts. One who will rebuild our relationship with our allies and restore our global reputation.”
While Biden’s inauguration represents a beacon of hope for many during uncertain times, others feel differently.
For members of the College Republicans at USF, this inauguration comes with disappointment as President Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office. The board members expressed skepticism about some of the initiatives Biden plans to implement once he takes office.
“Obviously this inauguration feels different because this time it is not a Republican being sworn into the White House,” the board said. “Our club is of course disappointed, but we will have another Inauguration Day in four years and we will be right back.
“Many of us will be watching and we will be listening whether or not he wants to be a uniting president, or whether or not he wants to be a Democrat in the White House, so we will see.”
This year’s presidential inauguration will look significantly different from previous years as people watch in the comfort of their homes. Some students, however, have expressed safety concerns besides the risks associated with COVID-19.
The recent rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to protest the election results that certified Biden’s victory brought to light many concerns about safety. While the Capitol prepares for potential civil unrest, major cities across the country are taking precautions to protect their infrastructure and citizens from potential protests.
“Security for the inauguration is now obviously an even greater concern than it usually would be, and they’ve brought in thousands of National Guard troops from nearby states to assist Capitol Police,” Chui said. “So while there’s still a possibility of violence, I don’t think it will be anything like what we saw during the insurrection. What I’m more concerned with are the reports of armed protests being planned at state capitals in all 50 states. I’m not sure how that will go down.”
On campus, University Police (UP) has also been preparing for Inauguration Day. UP Chief Chris Daniel said “appropriate adjustments in staffing and officers will be visible and available” throughout the day.
In an email to The Oracle, Daniel said there are currently no active threats to campus.
Although there are concerns about possible unrest on Inauguration Day, students are still looking forward to seeing the dawn of a new administration.
Megan McCarthy, a junior majoring in geography, said Biden’s inauguration will represent “putting the discrimination and intolerance we’ve seen in this country increasingly over the last four years to rest finally.”
“The one four years ago definitely was uncomfortable because Donald Trump seemed like a novelty being elected then, and four years later it’s now like a breath of fresh air to see him go,” McCarthy said. “Especially with the knowledge that he might be barred from any future elections.”
For Macaranas and others, they hope the next four years of the new administration bring the country closer together rather than divide it. Back in 2016’s inauguration, they emphasized the fear a Trump administration had on their lives.
“Four years ago, the inauguration filled many Americans with dread, anxiety and fear for the worst,” Macaranas said. “I remember being a freshman in high school and discussing with classmates about how terrified we were of the forthcoming years.
“Now, as a freshman in college, I feel relief knowing that we will no longer have Donald Trump as our president and that we will have leaders who work hard to unify and serve all Americans.”
Among some students, relief from the past administration is accompanied by hope for the new one.
Health sciences student Tamya Ticconi cried when she first heard about Biden’s victory.
With the country reaching almost 25 million cases and surpassing 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, Ticconi said she is hopeful of the initiatives Biden can accomplish during his first days in office. Above all, she hopes the country becomes more united with the start of Biden’s presidency.
“He does have a 100-day plan with a lot of stuff inside,” she said. “There’s like a whole spreadsheet that he put out, so I’m hoping that all that works out for everyone, and that we can finally unify both sides of this country.”
Biden said he plans on having 100 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office and he will make it a priority to get children back to school.
However, not everyone feels the same with the start of a new presidency.
“The future is uncertain, but I think we would all be fooling ourselves to say the worst has yet to come,” political science junior Alexandria Bishop said. “The unifying elect has demonized half the country time and time again while giving Antifa hall passes to burn cities and kill random people.”
Regardless of the change in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon, the College Republicans’ board members are hopeful that the next commander in chief will act for the betterment of the country as a whole.
“We wish the president-elect the best and success … and in four years we are looking forward to holding his administration accountable,” the board said. “We hope that the president-elect holds his promises to unite this country. We are skeptical, but we are hopeful.”