Women reflect on the historic moment Kamala Harris took the oath of office as the first Black, Asian-American and female US vice president

kamala harris inauguration
Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

On January 20, Kamala Harris did what no woman before her had done: she put her hand on a bible and took the oath of office to serve as vice president of the United States.

For millions of people across the US, Harris’ moment at the inauguration felt like the beginning of a new chapter in American history. Harris is not just the first woman, but also the first Black and first South Asian-American politician to become the country’s VP. 

But looming over the moment were the events of just two weeks prior when a mostly white, pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol building in an attempt to negate the votes of 81 million Americans – including Black voters in swing states who had helped deliver the election for Joe Biden and Harris.

Still, that didn’t stop millions of people from across the country, and the globe, from witnessing Harris’ historic moment from the safety of their homes. They wore pearl necklaces and Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers – a nod to Harris’ signature style – and tagged their photos on social media #ChucksAndPearls2021.

Insider asked readers to tell us how they spent Inauguration Day and to reflect on Harris’ early days as vice president. They shared their joy at the progress her ascent represented while acknowledging that the fight for social justice and racial equality that helped usher Harris to the podium was far from complete.

The responses were many and varied: people sat glued to their large-screen TVs, wore symbolic colors, and followed along with their children. 

Merissa Green, a resident of Winter Haven, Florida said she was taking the day to “enjoy what our great grandmothers and ancestors never got the chance to see or be.”

We’ve collected some of the best responses from Insider readers below. These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Merissa Green
Merissa Green, a resident of Winter Haven, Florida dressed up in pearls and Converse sneakers to commemorate Kamala Harris’ inauguration.

‘Today we have HOPE’

“Some, like me, are still chasing a dream. But today, we have HOPE. When one ascends, every black woman still waiting for her moment feels she has ascended. For every sista who was the first, reach back so you won’t be the last.”

– Merissa Green, from Winter Haven, Florida. She wore pearls and purple chucks to view Harris’ inauguration.

‘The hard work is not done’

“To see a black woman rise to that height and in our government just renewed and restored my stake in our country, because quite frankly, it’s been squashed the past four years and everything that’s gone on.”

“Our hard work is not just this past year’s hard work. Barbara Jordan goes back to Shirley Chisholm goes back to Sojourner Truth goes back to Harriet Tubman.” 

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Janet Galbraith, 55, from Texas, wore pearls and Converse to honor Kamala Harris on Inauguration Day

“[Harris’ Inauguration] also lets me know that the hard work is not done. Because historically, if you look at the progress of minorities in general, and black people specifically, it’s kind of three steps forward, two steps back.”

“And so I know that [despite] the pride that I feel, there is an uncomfortably large proportion of our society that is angered and even more resolved, to make sure that there is no equity. And equality. So I don’t fool myself. Yeah, we can all revel in the day that her swearing-in brings and President Biden’s swearing-in brings, but we cannot fool ourselves to think for one second it’s not gonna be a hard-charged, uphill slog going forward.”

– Janet Galbraith, 55, from Texas, who wore pearls and Converse sneakers to honor Harris on Inauguration Day.

Kamala Harris inauguration
Tony Evans, a furloughed bartender watches the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with his granddaughter Dy’mond Roberts in East Oakland, California on January 20, 2021.

‘So powerful you had to see it, no matter how you had to see it’

“As women, we need to honor other women. We need to honor and respect the women who have worked so hard to get here. And I just was so grateful to see it.”

“I wore my Native earrings. I belong to the first Native American sorority in the country [Alpha Pi Omega] and I wore my own colors. We had some of our sisters who were wearing pearls honoring her. We were wearing our shirts for sure, we were wearing our colors.”

“I watched it on my 60-inch TV. Right there in my living room. Full, powerful. I wanted to be there so bad, but that was what we could do.”

“60-inch screen TV. Enjoyed every moment of it.”

“Enjoyed the music, even not having the ability for people to gather to celebrate that moment. That would have been a devastating thing in most situations, but I think with the situation that led up to that day…that moment was so powerful you had to see it, no matter how you had to see it.”

“It just was so powerful for me to see this woman, who comes from the intersectionality of not only being a woman, but being a woman of color, and a woman that is multiracial, as am I, and knowing that we have a possibility of that being commonplace by the time my granddaughters can go to university and decide what they want to do and not have to face the assumptions that you are not qualified. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with all my life, that I know Kamala has to deal with all of her life: the assumptions that people make because of the bias that goes on in this world.”

– Denise Henning, 62, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and Mississippi Choctaw and a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Kamala Harris little girl
Senator Kamala Harris takes a selfie with a young girl at the annual Pride Parade in San Francisco, California, on June 30, 2019. Harris as VP represents a once impossible dream for many women and girls of color.

‘This feels like a point where everything has stopped, and as we restart as a country.’

“I took [my three children] to the office with me. We have TVs around the office, and we were able to watch the inauguration.”

“My oldest one was very into the inauguration and was listening to the speeches. He’s 14. It was a real moment to watch this with the kids, and have the opportunity to watch it with the kids. Normally under nonpandemic conditions, they’d watch it at school.”

“What I wanted him to take away was the stark contrast of all of the historical perspective of all the white men and then having Kamala’s picture as the next vice president.”

“I think that this feels like a point where everything has stopped, and as we restart as a country we have a choice in the direction in which we go because we don’t have that momentum behind us pushing us and staying in the same kind of path we’ve been forging for ourselves. I think this is an opportunity to rethink our business, our pleasure, our friends, and, politically, what we should do going forward.”

– Tiffany Devereux, 46, of North Carolina, an entrepreneur whose business had been affected due to the pandemic.

 

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9 American greats Amanda Gorman referenced in her poem performed during Joe Biden’s inauguration, from Maya Angelou to Barack Obama

Amanda Gorman
American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 20, 2021.

  • Amanda Gorman paid homage to many American greats in her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
  • Gorman references the work of Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and more. 
  • The 22-year-old poet preformed her poem at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Students and historians will study Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” following her breathtaking performance at the 2021 presidential inauguration. 

Gorman, a 22-year-old and the nation’s first youth poet laureate, read her work after the swearing in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Read more: Meet 14 Joe Biden family members who could be powerful surrogates – or potential headaches – for the new Democratic president’s administration

In her six-minute performance, Gorman alluded to the works of great American writers and speakers like Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Abraham Lincoln. 

The poet told NPR she deeply researched her work by reading American literature and studying performances by other poet laureates.

“I think there is a real history of orators who have had to struggle, a type of imposed voicelessness, you know, having that stage at inauguration,” Gorman said. “So it’s really special for me.”

Here are nine references Gorman’s poem made to iconic American literature.

Gorman alluded to fellow inaugural poet Maya Angelou’s poem, ‘Still I Rise.’

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton
American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Gorman referenced the Angelou poem “Still I Rise,” about the poet overcoming prejudice as a Black woman, when she said: “We will rise through the golden hills of the West. We will rise from the windswept Northeast, where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South.”

Angelou, a Pulitzer Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, preformed her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. Gorman told Vogue she studied Angelou’s work to prepare for her reading.

Famous lines from Martin Luther King Jr.’s address during the 1963 March on Washington appeared in the poem.

Martin Luther King Jr
CBS Television Network presents the interview program Washington Conversation with CBS News Correspondent Paul Niven and Reverend Martin Luther King (pictured). Image dated May 20, 1962. Washington, DC.

Gorman referenced lines from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech when she said: “We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.”

King famously said during his speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Gorman nodded to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln.

In 1863, Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in part to inspire soldiers fighting the civil war by saying, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Gorman nodded to Lincoln’s “unfinished work” in her line: “Somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

Gorman references two iconic Langston Hughes poems in a single line.

Langston Hughes in 1936

Toward the end of her poem, Gorman said: “In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.”

The last three words pay homage to two iconic works — “I, Too” and “Still Here” — by fellow poet Langston Hughes. 

Hughes begins “Still Here” with, “I’ve been scared and battered. My hopes the wind done scattered.” The poet ends “I, Too” with, “They’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed — I, too, am America.”

Gorman referenced a phrase used frequently by George Washington.

George Washington portrait
In addition to being the first American president, George Washington was also the commander of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, a fervent writer, and gardener.

George Washington used the biblical phrase “under their vine and fig tree” numerous times in correspondence, according to historian George Tsakiridis.

Gorman references this phrase when she said, “Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.”

Gorman references Barack Obama’s campaign slogan “change we can believe in.”

Barack Obama Joe Biden Michelle Obama Jill Biden
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Joe Biden wave after Barack’s acceptance speech in November 2018.

Gorman said, “If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.”

The nod to “change” brings back Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan and acceptance address line, “change has come to America.”

Gorman seemed to reference a famous saying from abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

frederick douglass
Frederick Douglass.

When Gorman said, “Being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” she may have been referring to a famous saying by Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

The poet said she studied Douglass’s work prior to her address.

Gorman nodded to Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner’s work, “Intruder In the Dust.”

William Faulkner
William Faulkner.

In “Intruder in the Dust,” Faulkner’s 1948 book that explores Jim Crow’s effect on the American South, the author said Americans love nothing but their automobile, which they spend Sunday “polishing and waxing” and renews each year in “pristine virginity.”

Gorman seemed to reference this work when she said, “And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.”

The title of her poem references the sermon of English settler John Winthrop.

john winthrop
John Winthrop.

Gorman’s poem title, “The Hill We Climb,” seemed to call out the description Winthrop gave New England: a “city upon a hill” that would set an example for the rest of the world.

BONUS: Gorman made two references to Lin Manuel-Miranda’s award-winning play, ‘Hamilton.’

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Gorman said on Twitter she made two references to the Tony Award winning musical, “Hamilton.”

The first, “for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us,” alludes to the song, “History Has Its Eyes on You.” 

The second is in reference to Washington’s saying, “under their vine and fig tree,” which the character in “Hamilton” also called to in the play.

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‘Democracy has prevailed’: President Biden says ‘unity is the path forward’ in inaugural address

joe biden inaugural speech
President Joe Biden

  • Joe Biden, now the 46th president of the US, delivered a solemn inaugural address on Wednesday.
  • Biden made a plea for unity and to “end this uncivil war” from the same stage overtaken by rioters two weeks ago.
  • “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” he said. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Speaking from the same stage that was overrun by violent insurrectionists just two weeks ago, President Joe Biden called for unity and perseverance in his inauguration speech on Wednesday. 

“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” Biden said.

Building upon the foundational theme of his campaign, Biden urged Americans to come together and bring down the temperature in national politics. 

“We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature,” the president said. “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos.

He added: “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”

Biden also underscored immense challenges facing the country amid 402,000-plus COVID-19 deaths, surging unemployment, and an attempted coup that left the nation’s capital under a military occupation so that the new president could be inaugurated without incident.

“So now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for over two centuries,” Biden said. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

Biden’s journey to the inauguration stage was an emotional one. Before leaving his home state of Delaware for the nation’s capital on Tuesday, Biden broke down in tears when reflecting upon his late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer at the age of 46 in 2015.

Beau’s death came amid speculation that Biden would run for president in 2016. He did not, but ultimately decided to run for the third time in 2020 because of what he saw in Charlottesville back in the summer of 2017.

His central campaign platform became “restoring the soul of the nation,” with Biden presenting himself in a crowded Democratic field as a unifier who could appeal to the disaffected working-class white voters who abandoned the party in 2016 and tipped the scales for Trump against Hillary Clinton.

Biden acknowledged in his address that “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days.”

Asking the American people to bear with him, the new president laid out their common anxieties and how to overcome them.

“Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation,” Biden said. “I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand that, like my dad, they lay awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling wondering ‘Can I keep my health care? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next.

“I promise, I get it,” he continued. “But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, or don’t get the news from the same sources you do.”

Biden then described the nation’s predicament as that of an “uncivil war” in his final rallying cry for unity.

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we showed a little tolerance and humility, if we stand in the other person’s shoes – as my mom used to say – just for a moment.”

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Biden’s presidential inauguration will include a virtual parade and a military escort to the White House

President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on the U.S. response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 29, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on the U.S. response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 29, 2020.

  • The Presidential Inaugural Committee said on Sunday that the traditional Inauguration Day parade would be virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Rep. James Clyburn, co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee, told USA Today only about 2,000 people are expected to attend the event in person.
  • That’s down from the estimated hundreds of thousands who attended President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and the more than a million who attended former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will feature a virtual parade and a military escort to the White House, organizers announced on Sunday.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on Sunday that Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden would not have a classic parade for the January 20 inauguration, though many of the day’s traditions would continue in some form while still helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 and encouraging people not to travel. 

While there will still be people in attendance with social distancing protocols in place, Rep. James Clyburn, co-chair of the Biden inaugural committee, told USA Today only about 2,000 people are expected to attend the event in person.

That’s down from the estimated 1.8 million and nearly 1 million guests who attended former President Barack Obama’s inaugurations in 2009 and 2013, respectively, and the estimated hundreds of thousands of people who attended President Donald Trump’s in 2017.

Biden’s inaugural committee said in a press release that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be sworn in on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, at the event on January 20, then would be escorted to the White House by representatives from each branch of the military.

The traditional parade normally set up along the president’s route to the White House will be replaced with a virtual parade featuring pre-recorded clips and performances from around the country, much like what was done for the Democratic National Convention last year.

Further, the inaugural committee is encouraging Americans to share video clips of their own stories of America on their website.

“The parade will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era,” the inaugural committee said in a release seen by CNN.

According to the Associated Press, workers started taking down a parade viewing stand from outside the White House last week.

The Inaugural Committee has yet to announce anyone participating in the virtual parade, but said it would feature “diverse, dynamic” performances.

“We are excited about the possibilities and opportunities this moment presents to allow all Americans to participate in our country’s sacred inaugural traditions,” Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Maju Varghese said in a statement to AP.

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A Trump hotel in DC more than quadrupled prices for room bookings around Biden’s inauguration

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The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC is seen on Election Day, November 3, 2020.

  • The Trump International Hotel has posted hiked-up room rates on its website for stays that coincide with President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
  • Room rates at the hotel, located in Washington, DC, begin at $2,225 per night around January 20, the day of the inauguration.
  • On other days in January, rates begin at $476.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of President Donald Trump’s hotels is trying to profit from guests looking for a room on or near January 20, the inauguration date for Joe Biden. 

The website for the Trump International Hotel, located in Washington, DC, shows room rates for days around January 20 begin at $2,225 per night. On other days in January, rates begin at $476.

There is a two-night minimum stay requirement for all guests traveling during the time of the inauguration, according to the hotel website. 

Other nearby Washington, DC, hotels are also jacking up prices, according to Politico, which first reported that Trump’s hotel is hiking up prices ahead of Biden’s inauguration. 

The Trump International Hotel did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Trump has yet to concede to Biden, even though the race was called for the former vice president in early November. Instead, Trump unleashed a series of legal attacks, aiming to question the validity of the election results and allege widespread voter turnout. Of the dozens of lawsuits Trump’s filed so far, he won none

It’s unclear whether Trump will attend Biden’s inauguration ceremony. The White House declined to comment. 

Trump has indicated, however, that he wants to hold a 2024 campaign event on January 20, the same day as Biden’s inauguration.

Various Trump allies – including his wife and first lady Melania – have urged the president to concede. Others like Vice President Mike Pence have endorsed Trump’s refusal to concede. Just days after the race was called in November, Pence said the Trump administration plans to remain in place for another full term

Pence asked a judge to stop a lawsuit that sought to give him more power in the upcoming congressional certification process on January 6. The vice president presides over a joint congressional session during which lawmakers officially certify the results of the presidential election. 

The lawsuit would have encouraged a federal judge to grant Pence the power to reject results from individual states, potentially giving him the ability to overturn the election in Trump’s favor and grant him another full term. 

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Trump is reportedly planning a made-for-TV exit on Air Force One from the White House to a rally on Inauguration Day, hoping to pull viewers from Biden

Trump - Biden
President Donald Trump shakes hands with former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at his inauguration at the Capitol on January 20, 2017.

  • President Donald Trump is planning a made-for-TV White House exit to steal attention from President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration, Axios reported. 
  • According to the outlet, Trump is planning on flying to Florida on Air Force One to stage a rally at the same time Biden is sworn in at a socially-distanced inauguration in Washington, DC.
  • If Trump follows through with the plans it would break with Inauguration Day traditions designed to showcase the stability of US democracy.
  • Usually the president welcomes the president-elect to the White House and accompanies them to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.
  • Last week Biden said he personally didn’t care if Trump attends his inauguration, but that Trump should go to demonstrate a peaceful transfer of power.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is planning a spectacular, made-for-TV exit from the White House in a bid to steal viewers from President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Axios reported Sunday, citing sources familiar with the talks.

According to the outlet, one scenario being discussed is having Trump boycott Biden’s inauguration – in a break with America’s democratic traditions – and attend a rally in Florida.

Under that plan, according to Axios, Trump would leave the White House on January 20 in Marine One then take Air Force One to Florida, where he would address his supporters at a rally timed to coincide with Biden’s socially-distanced inauguration outside the US Capitol.

White House spokesman Judd Deere told Axios: “Anonymous sources who claim to know what the President is or is not considering have no idea. When President Trump has an announcement about his plans for Jan. 20 he will let you know.”

Sources told NBC News last week that Trump is also planning to announce his candidacy for the 2024 election on Inauguration Day in a bid to steal the limelight from Biden and set himself up as Biden’s chief political opponent.

Last week Biden told CNN that he personally doesn’t care if Trump attends his inauguration, but said it would be important to show a peaceful transfer of power.

Since losing the election, Trump has ignored numerous traditions designed to ensure a peaceful transfer of power and show the stability of American democracy.

The president has still refused to concede the election to Biden, maintaining that the election was stolen from him as a result of a vast conspiracy – while providing no convincing evidence of the allegation. 

He has refused to invite Biden to the White House, a courtesy traditionally extended by incumbents to the victor, and delayed his administration’s transition to Biden’s team for weeks.

There has even been speculation among former Secret Service officials that Trump would refuse to leave the White House. 

Multiple reports have said that Trump is planning to leverage his continuing popularity with the Republican Party base to maintain control over the party after he leave the White House – a plan that may involve starting a conservative news network to rival Fox News. 

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