News, Politics

Joe Biden Becomes 46th President of the United States

Photo: By Sgt. Charlotte Carulli, US Department of Defense.

The United States has a new president and a new vice-president.

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Joe Biden officially became president of the United States. Kamala Harris officially became vice-president, the first woman, the first Black and the first south-Asian person to have that position.

Joe Biden gave a speech during the inauguration ceremony, promising to help unite the country.

Over the past four years, the United States has become very divided. Some Americans, generally Republicans, like Donald Trump and what he stands for. Others, generally Democrats, don’t like Trump and hold a very different, often conflicting, set of beliefs.

In a speech at the ceremony in which he became president, Biden said, “we must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”

(In this case, “uncivil” was a reference to the US Civil War in the 1800s, when Americans in the north fought against Americans in the south. “Red” refers to Republicans and “blue” refers to Democrats.)

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crowd was much smaller than at past inaugurations and most people were socially distanced from others, and wore masks.

Singer Lady Gaga sang the US national anthem. Singer Jennifer Lopez and country star Garth Brooks also performed.

One of the most moving presentations during the inauguration was by poet Amanda Gorman. At 22, she is likely the youngest poet ever to present during a presidential inauguration.

Gorman read a poem she had written, partly inspired by the riots at Capitol Hill two weeks earlier, on January 6. In her poem, The Hill We Climb, she talked about the need for the US to heal and move forward:

“…there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Following the swearing-in ceremony that made Biden and Harris’ positions official was an inauguration party featuring big-name entertainers including Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen as well as a large fireworks display.

Former president Donald Trump, who on Jan. 13, 2021 was impeached for the second time–the only US president in history to be impeached more than once–did not attend the inauguration of Biden and Harris. (Read more about what it means to be impeached in this TKN article about Trump’s first impeachment, Dec. 18, 2019: Instead, he flew to his home in Florida.

On Friday, Jan. 22, Biden will make a phone call to a foreign (non-US) leader. Significantly, he has chosen to call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


Former president Donald Trump left the White House before the ceremony, leaving his vice-president, Mike Pence, to represent him and welcome the new leaders. Why do you think Trump didn’t stay to welcome the new president, as all but three other presidents have done in the past?

Read the entire transcript of Amanda Gorman’s moving poem, The Hill We Climb, here:

The title of Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb, has several meanings. What does it mean to you? What do you think the excerpt from her poem that is featured in this article means?

In this article, the word “inauguration” is used. Although a definition isn’t given for that word, which may not be familiar to you, did you understand what it meant? What, in the article, helps you understand the meaning of inauguration?

If you are not American, why do you think it is important to know about the US presidents and what they do? If you are American, what non-American leaders are you familiar with and what do you know about them?

Capitol Hill was the site of the inauguration ceremony on January 20. On January 6, it was the site of violent riots by pro-Trump supporters. Discuss.

A nickname for the President of the United States is “POTUS.” Why do you think that is?

Before Kamala Harris, all US vice-presidents have been male. Each of their spouses was known as “the second lady.” Vice-President Kamala Harris is married to a man; what do you think his title is (or should be)?

Why is Biden’s first contact as president with a foreign leader “significant” (important or symbollic)? Why do you think he chose Canada’s prime minister?


A teacher’s guide by PBS, for Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb:
It includes a link to a video of Gorman reading her poem at the inauguration.

Click here for a link to the Google Docs version of the above teacher’s guide: