On Inauguration Day, many Americans who have been ostracized or felt forgotten seemed finally able to begin a new chapter. In a matter of hours, Americans who haven’t felt seen were able to see a celebration of diversity and firsts in a historic and solemn setting.
American presidents have long pledged to govern the whole of the United States of America, but many people still remained at the margins.
During President Joe Biden’s inauguration, it was less about what he said than about the people he put center stage, including Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and woman of color elected into the White House, and Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet.
The celebration of diversity was unlike anything seen from the country’s leadership in recent years.
Here are a few examples of the historic — and inclusive — day:
Vice President Kamala Harris
Harris made history on Wednesday, becoming the first woman vice president, first Black vice president and first vice president of South Asian heritage.
A graduate of the historically Black Howard University, Harris’ alma mater honored her with 49 bell tolls, commemorating her becoming the 49th vice president. The school’s marching band was also featured as an escort in the parade, as was “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem.
Harris’ first name means “lotus flower,” which is a powerful symbol in Indian culture. She has spoken about how a lotus grows underwater but rises above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom. She also said she has strong pride in those roots. Her grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, was a senior diplomat in the Indian government. Harris said she learned a lot about service through him and her parents.
“It’s a matter of great pride, great joy. Someone of Indian descent, the whole community is uplifted,” said Ajay Bhutoria, vice chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “Now I can look up and say to my kids, ‘Hey, if you work hard, and play by the rules, you could be VP one day and maybe president in the future.'”
Andrea Hall, the president of IAFF Local 3920 in Georgia and the first Black woman to be named captain of her fire department in South Fulton County, Georgia, recited the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language.
Amanda Gorman captivated viewers as she recited her original poem “The Hill We Climb,” at the inaugural ceremony.
In an interview on Thursday with “Good Morning America,” Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in history, at 22, also revealed that like Biden, she also had to work to overcome a speech impediment.
“President Biden has been super open about his stutter,” Gorman told “GMA,” saying that her own speech impediment wasn’t a stutter, “but it was dropping several letters that I just could not say for years.”
“Most specifically the ‘R’ sound, which it would take until probably I was 20 to say — meaning that I couldn’t say words like ‘poetry’ or even ‘Gorman,’ which is my last name,” she added. “I had to really work at it and practice to get to where I am today.”
“Una nación, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos!” proclaimed the world-renowned singer during her inaugural performance — a prominent display of Spanish during one of the most consequential events in American history. Her words translate to: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court justice to conduct a swearing-in at a presidential inauguration. Sotomayor, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, was also the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court and the third woman.
Hours after the inaugural ceremony, Harris administered the oath of office to Rev. Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia, and Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish senator from the South since the 1880s.
Harris also swore in Democrat Alex Padilla, the former California secretary of state and first Latino senator from California, to fill her own Senate seat.
With Georgia’s two new Democratic senators, Democrats took control of the evenly split Senate, as Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote in her new role as president of the Senate.
New Oval Office decor
The Oval Office’s interior design changed shortly after Biden’s inauguration — as it does with every new administration. The office, which previously displayed a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson — infamous for his Native American removal policy — now features portraits and busts of well-known American historical figures including civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., as first reported by the Washington Post.
Prominently displayed behind the resolute desk is a bust of Mexican American labor leader Cesar Chavez, along with pictures of Biden’s family.
Executive orders and government actions
Hours after taking the presidential oath, Biden signed more than a dozen executive actions, some of which were aimed at protecting human rights and immigration.
One executive order ended former President Donald Trump’s order that banned people from certain countries from entering the United States, a move that was well-received among advocates. Trump instituted the ban after the promise on the 2016 campaign trail of a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims into the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” according to a statement released in 2015.
“We welcome the repeal of the Muslim Ban as a first step to redress the grave injustice, violence, discrimination, and hardships inflicted by the Trump administration toward Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world,” said Basima Sisemore, a researcher for the Global Justice Program at the Othering & Belonging Institute.
Another instituted a policy that the government should pursue a “comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, praised the Biden-Harris administration for “addressing racial justice” Thursday.
Another order addressed the controversy over immigration enforcement on the Southern border and another calling for the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the largest immigrant rights organization in California, praised Biden for the immigration initiatives.
“This is our best chance to achieve a just society, fully inclusive of immigrants,” Angelica Salas, CHIRLA’s executive director, said in a written statement.
Fashion with a purpose
At the inauguration, Harris dressed with purpose by wearing outfits created by designers of color Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson, according to an aide. Rogers, who designed the vibrant purple coat and dress worn by Harris at the swearing-in ceremony, is a young Black designer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who now lives in New York. Hudson, who created the vice president’s nighttime ensemble, is also a Black designer from South Carolina.
White House online inclusivity
The White House website revised its contact form by adding gender-inclusive pronoun and prefix options including “they/them” and the gender-neutral prefix of “Mx.”
“A new day has begun in our nation. The pro-equality future so many of us fought for decades is closer than ever before,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said when praising the Biden-Harris administration. “From his history-making personnel decisions to the policies we expect him to release in his first 100 days, President Biden has made clear he plans on delivering for LGBTQ people and all Americans on Day One.”
ABC News’ Averi Harper, Terrance Smith, Karen L. Travers and Zohreen Shah contributed to this report.