President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made history earlier this year as they were sworn into office, a mere two weeks after a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. In the first '100 days' in office, the Biden administration has already committed to numerous executive orders that focus on major reversals of certain Trump policies and centre tackling COVID-19 as major priority.
Inauguration Day (Wednesday, January 20) was a triumphant change of pace for Americans who watched as Biden became the oldest President-elect ever to hold the title at 77 year old, and as Harris became the first Black and Asian-American woman to be elected to the Vice President position in the White House.
The event was a star-studded affair with former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton all in attendance. Performances from Lady Gaga - who delivered the National Anthem wearing a giant Schiaparelli Haute Couture gown with a poignant dove brooch - and a passionate Jennifer Lopez also added to the momentous affair. Both artists joined the ranks of artists like Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin who have performed at previous inauguration days.
The tributes were topped off with a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, who, at 22, is the youngest inaugural poet laureate ever. She encapsulated the experience beautifully, saying: 'Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished... For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.'
In among the fanfare and fist bumps during the socially distanced ceremony were eerie reminders of the current Covid-19 pandemic and extra security measures following reports and warnings of potential attacks on the new President. Elements of the inauguration that only served to highlight the impact of the previous administration and the importance of President Joe Biden's initial executive orders.
Here is what Joe Biden has done since gaining office as the 46th President of the United States:
What has Joe Biden Already Accomplished?'
Hours after being sworn in, earlier this year Biden signed a historic 17 executive actions – 15 will be executive orders, all of which will be major reversals from Trump’s policies.
Despite the pride and progress shown throughout Inauguration Day, the sombre overtone of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was notable in Joe Biden's first executive orders.
On April 28, Biden delivered his first Presidential address to Congress. At the beginning of the speech the first term President acknowledged the historic nature of the event as two women - Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - sat alongside him, a first in US presidential history.
The seating arrangement marked a more than symbolic show of the advancement of US women in recent decades, since Harris and Pelosi stand first and second in the presidential line of succession, respectively.
After winning the election in January 2021, Harris became the first woman, and the first Black and Asian-American person to serve as vice president. Pelosi's seat is also a historic one as she is the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives, a position she has held since 2007.
Biden spoke to a joint session of the House and Senate and opened his speech with: 'Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium, no president has ever said those words. And it’s about time!'
A series of measures are se to be enacted to tackle the pandemic which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US. There will be a mandate to wear masks and practice social distancing on all federal government property - a noticeable change from Trump’s more relaxed approach.
Biden also plans to create the position of Covid-19 Response Coordinator, who will report directly to the President and to launch a '100 Days Masking Challenge' asking Americans to mask up for 100 days and leading by example in the federal government.
Biden will also ensure that the US rejoins the World Health Organisation, and will be sending Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, as the head of delegation to its executive board meeting - a move that will halt the process begun by the Trump administration to withdraw from the WHO.
The President of the United States spoke to the nation from the White House on Monday February 22 after it was confirmed that 500,000 Americans have now passed away because of the virus.
Here is an excerpt from his speech:
'We must end the politics and misinformation that’s divided families, communities and the country. It’s cost too many lives already. It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans. It’s our neighbours, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together as one people, as the United States of America. That’s the only way we’re going to beat this virus, I promise you.'
After the address, Biden joined by First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, at a candlelight vigil in honour of the lives lost outside the White House. The memorial included a moment of silence as well as as 500 candles to signify the number of lives lost.
The sentiments expressed during the memorial are also set to be brought to fruition with the administration's announcement of a clear timeframe for vaccination availability across the US.
In a press briefing on March 2, Biden announced that the US will have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May. Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, during a press briefing explained to reporters:
'We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May. About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’d have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July, We rectified that.'
This reduced timeline for the US population is due, in part, to the introduction of a third approved vaccine, from the drugmaker and medical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine 'joins' the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently in circulation in the US.
All three vaccines were credited by Dr Anthony Fauci as 'highly efficacious' during a recent NBC interview at preventing both the spread of the virus and people’s level of illness if they do happen contract it.
Fauci also recently announced his support for the new vaccine, noting in February, per Reuters: 'The J&J data that just came out, when you have advanced critical disease, there were no hospitalisations and no deaths. That’s good news.'
Although Biden's recent announcement is to be congratulated, the rollout of the vaccine supply is most likely to take longer due the distribution logistics needed in order to get to clinics across the US, according to The New York Times.
Biden is set to launch a whole-government initiative to advance racial equity.
The initiative is set to include 'Identifying Methods to Assess Equity' and 'Allocating Federal Resources to Advance Fairness and Opportunity'. The move towards this form of better racial equality was central to Biden's first Racial Equality Address - initially announced on January 21 and took place after Senators were sworn in for Trump's impeachment.
In a White House memorandum issued on Tuesday January 26, titled 'Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States', the new administration discussed the numerous failings of the previous government in stamping out this issue.
Alongside the statement, the new US president made a public pledge to crack down on xenophobia against Asian-Americans in the wake of an increase in violence and harassment during the pandemic, which some argue has been fuelled by Donald Trump’s frequent references to the 'China virus'.
The memorandum reads, in part: 'The Federal Government must recognise that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin.'
The newly sworn in President echoed this sentiment throughout his accompanying speech and described the discrimination as 'un-American'.
The new order also calls for 'cultural competency' and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as part of its Covid response efforts. The memorandum also urges the US Department of Justice to partner with those communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against them.
Following the violent shootings that resulted in the deaths of eight people, many of whom were women of Asian descent, across several spas in the Atlanta, Georgia on March 15, President Biden ordered the American flag to fly at half-staff at the White House, military grounds and other federal government buildings 'as a mark of respect'. The flag is set to be lowered at all embassies and other international US facilities until March 22.
Biden met Asian-American leaders in Georgia, in the wake of the shootings, which came amid a spike in anti-Asian violence since the start of the pandemic.
During the visit, Biden also urged Congress to pass the coronavirus-related hate crimes bill introduced earlier this month by two Asian-American lawmakers.
The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act would bolster Justice Department efforts to combat such acts.
The bill would 'expedite the federal government's response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities', according to the White House.
The President added that 'for all the good that laws can do, we have to change our hearts'.
'Hate can have no safe harbour in America. It has to stop. It's on all of us, all of us together, to make it stop,' he stated.
George Floyd's trial verdict
Following the announcement of the guilty verdict given to former police officer Derek Chauvin on April 20, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a poignant address to the world. Chauvin was found guilty of three charges, second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The President explained that although the jury’s decision was 'a giant step towards justice in America' it was ultimately 'not enough'.
'It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off the whole world to see,' he said, before declaring that systemic racism is 'a stain on our nation’s soul'.
'Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America. Let’s also be clear: such a verdict is much too rare. For so many people, it seems it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors…a murder that lasts almost ten minutes in broad daylight for the whole world to see,' he continued.
'It took all of that for the judicial system to deliver basic accountability. We saw how traumatic and exhausting just watching the trial was for so many people,' he said. 'It’s a trauma, on top of the fear so many people of colour live with every day.'
The Vice President added during her speech: 'Today we feel a sigh of relief, still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.
'Black men, in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human…their lives must be valued in our education system, in our healthcare system, in our housing system, in our economic system, in our criminal justice system, in our nation. Full stop.'
According to CNN, in a show of solidarity and support for the Floyd family, the Vice President Harris and President Biden called his relatives shortly after they received news of the guilty verdict.
Biden has also started to put in motion the reversal of the unconstitutional Muslim ban and a Trump’s order that empowered harsh and extreme immigration enforcement - including the infamous building of the Mexico-US border.
Alongside this he has ordered that all appointees in the executive branch sign an ethics pledge, to avoid any further instances of internal corruption. Yes, it would seem that this is a direct dig at the Trump tax returns fiasco.
Environment and Climate Change
Biden further confirmed his commitment to a tidal change from the previous admiration by signing an executive order beginning the process of rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement, from which Mr Trump formally withdrew the US from last year.
Additionally, Biden has revoked the Presidential permit granted to the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which environmentalists and Native American groups have fought for more than a decade.
Biden has repealed a divisive law, passed under the Trump administration, which brings an end to Trump's ban on transgender Americans joining the military. The ban was announced by the former president during his first year in office.
In a statement released by the The White House on January 20 titled 'Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation', the explanation of the repeal reads:
Transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity, President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America's strength is found in its diversity.
The new US president took to his official Twitter page to confirm that he had overturned the legislation, four years after Trump issued the ban and announced the news on Twitter.
This decision will signal change for the LGBTQ+ community which has been at the centre of some of Trump's most stringent policies.
The news came days after Biden said he would nominate Pennsylvania’s top health official, Rachel Levine, to be his assistant secretary of health - a move that would make Levine the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.
'Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,' Biden said in a statement about the doctor's nomination.
During his first presidential address to Congress (April 28), President Biden discussed some of the important steps that are required in order to ensure US legislation protects young transgender people.
In the address, Biden praised young transgender people for their bravery as he urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, a landmark legislation that would expand federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people.
'To all the transgender Americans watching at home — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know that your president has your back,' said Biden on Wednesday night.
His comments come as US state legislatures around the country begin to consider a variety of legal bills that target transgender youth, specifically on issues like medical care and participation in gendered school sports.
Biden as a longtime champion for LGBTQ+ community has pledged both during his campaign and since taking office to make legislation and other measures that protect LGBTQ+ people a priority.
On February 14, Biden called on Congress to enact 'common sense' gun laws, in honour of the three-year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. If enacted, the laws will aim to ban assault weapons and make background checks a requirement for all gun sales.
In his statement, the President explained that his administration's policy is aimed at making schools and communities safer by enacting laws to reduce gun violence.
This most recent call to action to reduce gun violence reads:
'Three years ago today, a lone gunman took the lives of 14 students and three educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In seconds, the lives of dozens of families, and the life of an American community, were changed forever.'
'This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer.'
Biden also noted how some Parkland students - many of who were notable leaders in the March For Our Lives demonstrations in 2018 - turned their grief into calls for action, stating that 'so many other young people across the country who have experienced gun violence are carrying forward the history of the American journey'.
During Biden's first address to Congress, the President took time to reiterate his characterisation of gun violence as an epidemic. In the speech, he also called on Congress again to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to pass two bills that would strengthen background checks for potential gun owners and buyers.
What should we expect from the next '100 days' in office ?'
Joe Biden's executive orders and actions have already set a wholly different tone from the last administration — a pensive and ethically driven one that has appropriately addresses the tragic impact of Covid-19, institutionalised racism and climate change for the US.
The 46th US president will also use these initial days in office to secure congressional approval for his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to revive the economy, he has also committed to administering 100 million vaccines by his 100th day in office.
One immediate and desperate priority will also be action to save Obamacare by withdrawing it from a federal legal case to end it - brought about by the Trump administration.
In his inaugural address Biden said: 'Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause: the cause of democracy' the next '100 days' are set to be marked by this hopeful and unifying message.
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