Living History: A Young Woman Responds to the Inauguration

At the Lincoln Memorial in June of 2020, on the day National Guard troops stood down and the city reclaimed the road to the White House  as “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” 

by Miranda Johann

As I write this, I’m watching President Joseph R. Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden walk down the steps inside the U.S. Capitol and prepare to join the inauguration ceremony. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff have already made their entrance. 

Other than my obvious pride that our nation’s democracy prevailed over the authoritarian attack it has suffered for the past four years, and the joy in removing a severely disillusioned and dangerous sociopath from office, I feel a sigh of relief wash over my body, which I haven’t been able to feel for half a decade. 

Both Republican and Democratic senators spoke at the podium. In an odd respect, it feels more bipartisan, more unifying, that the outgoing president has broken tradition by not attending the ushering in of the new administration. 

Watching the outgoing president feign superiority one last time as he left the White House this morning really highlighted the transparency of his attempts at conveying power during his presidency. The red carpet was far too short if his intention was indeed to have it roll right out to the steps of Marine One. It’s a wonderful bit of symbolism for his constant visions of grandeur that don’t measure up to their own standards. 

And so, Melania was left to walk alongside him across the lawn with whatever dignity she could muster, as she tried to not let her stilettos sink into the ground. It may have been the most work ever done by a Trump on White House property. We shall not soon forget her legacy as First Lady. She showed us all how to Be Best…at complicity. 

The road ahead will not be easy for Biden. The federal government’s tasks — to finally address and manage a raging pandemic as the nation once again reaches new peaks in daily cases and deaths, the mounting economic and jobs crises, and the impending doom of climate change — are enough to keep an administration busy through two full terms of diligent civil service. 

On top of that, the new president is met with incomparable levels of disinformation and public distrust in the democratic process. 

With the state of division reaching deadly levels even weeks before Biden’s first day in office, what can he be expected to accomplish? 

More than what was being accomplished, at the very least. 

I’ve found those most supportive of Donald Trump, the “Law and Order” president, are those who know the least about his presidency and the legislation it passed. Will they hate Joe Biden regardless, despite being uninformed (or misinformed) of his policies? If so, why should the new president care to coalesce with those who already want him impeached? 

Because progress begets progress; because you can’t take the second step until you’ve taken the first.

When you’re in social studies class in middle school learning about significant events in history, you think it must have been so interesting to live in a time when things “really” happened. It’s so naive and simple. Then time goes on, you become a member of society and start actually living through historic events, and it’s downright terrifying. 

I never wanted to know the uncertainty of a nuclear standoff with North Korea or watch American citizens stage an insurrection on our United States Capitol with the intent to overturn the results of democracy. 

With firsthand experience, you also gain the privilege of feeling emotion when things go well. Biden’s inauguration won’t be as sweet for my children to read in a textbook as it was for me to witness, just as the pitfalls our nation endured in electing our worst-ever president won’t seem so severe. 

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” is a Confucian proverb we often heard in school.

When I was in 8th grade, my Spanish teacher played the inauguration of President Barack Obama on our class television. She cried as she told us how historic the day was. Being unaware kids growing up in the middle of white suburbia, we weren’t able to fully appreciate the magnitude of what we were witnessing. We were just happy we weren’t working on classwork.

As I got older, I grew to cherish that day in Spanish class. I’m so grateful that I can forever say I watched it happen, that I remember where I was when the first ever African American was sworn in to be President of the United States.

The racism I’ve witnessed since then, the murders of unarmed and innocent black people by police officers, the lack of judicial justice and condemnation for these crimes by millions of Americans, have left me baffled that Obama was ever able to achieve such a feat. It seems miraculous. It didn’t seem miraculous in 8th grade — it just seemed that he was the most qualified. 

My hope is that my children won’t see the election of our first woman Vice President as a miracle. I hope it’s strange to them that it only happened as recently as the year 2020, and that the repudiation of the prior administration seems like it was the most logical choice, and not, as it was, one of the most schismatic votes in electoral history.


Miranda Johann is a 25 year old aspiring writer from East Moriches, NY. Her nonfiction work is often related to current events and popular culture.

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