The history of the president’s first day in office


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.

Jennifer Lutz, The Carroll News

The first day a president takes office is historically filled with an abundance of energy, both good and bad, as citizens and lawmakers consider their expectations for the next four years. President Joe Biden’s first day in office certainly looked different from the inaugurations of presidents before him–due to COVID-19 precautions and safety concerns following the storming of the Capitol only a few weeks earlier–but the core elements that compose the memorable day were still present. 

As per usual, the president and vice president-elect were sworn into office at noon in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. The inauguration was heavily televised, a tradition started with President Harry Truman’s second oath of office. The New York Times reported that over 40 million people tuned in.

However, there were not the normal large crowds of Americans filling the National Mall. Instead, the administration placed 200,000 American flags in their stead. Even so, three sets of former presidents and first ladies, including Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama, were present. President Donald Trump chose not to attend the inauguration of his successor, which made him the first president to do so in 152 years since Andrew Johnson refused to attend Ulysses S. Grant’s inauguration in 1869, according to Time Magazine.

After Biden was sworn into office, there was no customary congressional luncheon, parade or ball. Rather, he enjoyed the traditional presidential escort to the White House and started to put 15 executive actions into effect, highlighting issues such as COVID-19, immigration, the economy, climate change and racial equity. No other recent president in the history of the United States before Biden has signed more than one executive order on their first day in office, as reported by the AP News

According to the National Archives, on Trump’s first day in office, he signed one executive order and Obama did not sign any executive orders on his first day in office. So, it seems Biden was serious when he told reporters on Inauguration Day, “There’s no time to start like today!”

 Regardless of partisanship, it is interesting to see a president do so much on a day that is typically for show. Whether future presidents will follow in Biden’s footsteps and use their first day in office to create a surge of executive actions or reserve the day for ceremonial purposes still remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Biden’s first day in office will go down in American history as one of the most peculiar and productive presidential inauguration days ever.