Former President Barack Obama hugs President Joe Biden as he departs from the inaugural stage at the end of the ceremony after being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. Caroline Brehman/Pool via REUTERS

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Just after Lady Gaga’s soaring “Star Spangled Banner” and J-Lo’s Spanish cries of freedom in “This Land Is Our Land,” and just before young poet Amanda Gorman urged us to “merge mercy with might and might with right,” President Joe Biden called for a moment of quiet. And this time, America listened. 

His silence was meant to honor the 400,000 killed so far by COVID-19, but he might as well have been calling for an end to the chaos that climaxed in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Indeed, if there was a theme to Biden’s speech, it was unity, the same dove he’s released during many of his speeches to mark the most important moments of his campaign, both before and after it was successful. 

“From now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago, violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation,” Biden said, “we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power, as we have for more than two centuries. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people who seek a more perfect union.”

And this time, America really did seem to listen. Washington was quiet beyond Biden’s call for silence, and that calm, at least for the day, extended across the country. All that was left was the normal, civil traditions that follow an inauguration. Gorman looked to tradition herself to write her poem that many said stole the show. She studied past inaugural poets and orators who spoke about division and unity, such as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Winston Churchill and then, found some inspiration in immediate history: the Jan. 6 attacks. 

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded,” she wrote. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Biden acknowledged that not everyone would feel the unity he preached, even when he asked “every American to join me in this cause.”

“I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new,” the president said. “Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never assured.”

But with unity, Biden said, “we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs.”

His words were echoed, and then symbolized, by Garth Brooks, the country music giant who joked that he would be the only Republican there and ignored the angry words he received on Twitter for performing. Brooks chose to accentuate the bonds that keep us together as a country. 

“The message they’re pushing is unity, and that’s right down my alley, man,” Brooks said. “If we’re gonna get anywhere, we’re gonna get there together.” 

On his third verse of “Amazing Grace,” he turned to the masked crowd and asked them to sing, as well as the people back home, and then he sang, and their hushed voices joined him.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

QAnon believers struggle with inauguration – New York Times – 1/20/2021
Some QAnon believers tried to rejigger their theories to accommodate a transfer of power to Mr. Biden. Several large QAnon groups discussed on Wednesday the possibility that they had been wrong about Mr. Biden, and that the incoming president was actually part of Mr. Trump’s effort to take down the global cabal.

We Mock QAnon at Our Own Risk – The New Republic – 1/20/2021
But some notable conspiracists claimed to experience a different sort of awakening. Ron Watkins—a former administrator of the 8kun message board, where QAnon originated, and himself suspected to be the author of the cryptic posts fueling the cult—announced that he was abandoning the conspiratorial group.

Biden issues call to unity that comes with urgency – Associated Press – 1/20/2021
As newly inaugurated leaders often do, President Joe Biden began his tenure with a ritual call for American unity. But standing on the same Capitol steps where just two weeks ago violent rioters laid siege to the nation’s democracy, Biden’s words felt less like rhetorical flourishes and more like an urgent appeal to stabilize a country reeling from a spiraling pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial tensions and a growing divide over truth versus lies.

An inauguration like no other: Notable moments of a momentous day – CNN – 1/20/2021
It’s been a day rife with history and packed with unforgettable moments. Here’s a look at some of the highlights so far.

Lady Gaga’s father on her inauguration performance: ‘I’m still very proud of her’ – Fox News – 1/20/2021
The New Yorker, who supports former President Donald Trump, told Fox News that he thinks she did a great job. “I’m still very proud of her!” Germanotta praised. “I think she did a great job. She sang loud and strong and she really put her soul into it.”

The great American reset: Biden points at nation’s promise in inaugural address – Axios – 1/20/2021
President Biden had exited his Cadillac with the new “46” license plates and was strolling a short stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue toward his new home when he spotted “Today” show weather legend Al Roker.

A Quiet Inauguration in the Capital – The American Prospect – 1/20/2021
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath of office in a quiet and mostly deserted capital. The largest crowds were members of the press, including international correspondents, covering the historic moment from the outside of the barricaded National Mall, as a new security perimeter was established to frustrate any attempts to stop the transfer of power. In the wake of the January 6 insurrection, the city’s hopefully temporary fortifications mimicked those of other cities after violent attacks.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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