Emerson community relieved by Biden inauguration

After 1,462 days of one of the most contentious presidential administrations to date, the sun broke out in Washington D.C. on Wednesday as Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. The day also saw the inauguration of Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian person and first woman to serve as Vice President.

The inauguration comes just two weeks after a violent right-wing mob stormed the Capitol Building in an effort to overturn the results of Biden’s electoral college victory, and a week after Donald Trump was impeached for a second time. The insurrection was incited by false claims of election fraud touted by Trump and congressional Republicans.

“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days,” Biden said in his inauguration speech. “I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new.”

Mneesha Gellman, a Marlboro Institute and political science professor, streamed the ceremony live with her children, ages 6 and 9, who were “counting down the minutes until inauguration.”

Gellman said it’s important for this administration not to revert to a pre-Trump normal, but to pave a new path for the nation.

“Though there’s been a lot of really important talk about not returning to normal because normal was unfair, it was unjust, and returning to normal is not going to help people who have been historically and contemporarily marginalized by that normal,” Gellman said. “It’s important to recognize the hunger that we have as a society for a sense of safety and wellbeing that can come with a new normal and normal that is dedicated to truly to justice for all.”

While Gellman said she would have preferred a more progressive candidate, she’s encouraged by Harris taking up the mantle of the Vice Presidency. The diversity of Biden’s cabinet which includes Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American person to lead the Department of the Interior, if confirmed is encouraging to Gellman as well.

“These are also situations where people’s intersectional identities will allow them to bring a deeper awareness of issues that affect people who have not traditionally held the reins of power,” she said.

Leo Duch Clerici, a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and visual and media arts senior at Emerson, said the former occupants of the White House filled him with dismay, especially because he lived so close to the nation’s capital.

“Every time I walked past the White House for the past four years it just gave me this feeling of disappointment in the whole system,” Duch Clerici said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done and there’s still a lot of ingrained issues that need to be solved. But it does feel like one step in the right direction.”

Graduate student and medical physician Bruce Kilstein said Biden should lay out a plan to move forward from the previous administration, rather than drag out a long and laborious impeachment process.

“I understand that they want to not be able to have Trump running again,” Kilstein said. “If they want to have a trial to impeach Trump, there’s no reason they can’t do it down the road, but the [vaccine distribution] needs to be something that they start working on right away.”

Boston police increased their presence in the city between Saturday and Inauguration Day. Emerson College Police provided additional officers and surveilled events on campus, while also monitoring information from state and local officials, according to a Jan. 15 email from Director of Emergency Management Chris Beaurpere. No large-scale demonstrations materialized.

Grace Tepper, also a Maryland native and a political communications senior, attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“The atmosphere at Trump’s inauguration was very different,” Tepper said. “Some people were very excited and in their minds patriotic, but for me and my friends, it was very sad and it rained and it was just depressing. So it was interesting to see this inauguration and to hear all the speeches and see a very much more diverse platform and be a little bit more excited about it.”

Gellman added that the ceremony is, literally and figuratively, only the beginning.

“More than celebrate, I think just start to shake off the cloak of trauma that has really been ensconcing us for the last four years and get to think about feeling hopeful at the beginning and end of each day, rather than beginning each day with a sense of despondency about who will be hurt by a new executive order this time,” Gellman said. “The plans are really to just focus on the work ahead because Inauguration Day is the very beginning of a much longer process.”