Was Richard Nixon racist

From Washington to Biden: History of Inaugurations

When Lady Gaga sang the national anthem "The Star Spangled Banner" at Joe Biden's inauguration this Wednesday, exactly 14 days after Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol, Biden wanted to set an example: Under his presidency, the country has been divided for years how seldom to get together again. "The classic meaning of the inauguration ceremony," says Jürgen Martschukat, an expert on US history at the University of Erfurt, "is the transfer of power in a peaceful ceremony." But a look at the history books shows what was different this time.

Lady Gaga's appearance at the inauguration of Joe Biden

The most visible sign of a peaceful transfer of power since George Washington became the first US president to take his oath of office on the constitution on April 30, 1789, has been the presence of his outgoing predecessor. But Trump had repeatedly announced that he would stay away from the ceremony. Also, the ritual on Wednesday (January 20th, 2021) did not allow much public in the classic sense, because due to the corona pandemic and fear of violence, the inauguration took place mostly virtually.

Also Jefferson's introduction with no predecessor

Trump's absence brings back memories in American society: on March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson, accompanied by congressmen and officers from a citizen militia, walked into the Washington Parliament building around noon - the Capitol was still under construction - and swore his oath of office at twelve o'clock sharp . The Marines band played. Both are still common today. It was the first inauguration in the newly founded capital and at the same time the first in which the predecessor - John Adams - did not take part.

This was to be repeated several times, of course when the sudden death of a president was to be lamented. This is what happened on November 22, 1963 at 2:38 p.m. local time, when Lyndon B. Johnson, to date Vice President, swore his oath on the constitution at Dallas airfield aboard the presidential plane Air Force One. Two hours earlier, President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), the bearer of hope for the Americans, had succumbed to an assassination attempt. Next to Johnson was Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline. Her husband's blood was still on her pink Chanel costume.

"The nightmare is over, the constitution is working"

Fled from office in the face of impeachment: US President Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon was absent for other reasons when his Vice-President Gerald Ford took his oath of office on August 8, 1974 in the East Room of the White House. Nixon had declared his resignation in a televised address after it was clear that Congress would impeach him over the Watergate scandal. Ford's first public statement should sound optimistic: "My fellow Americans," said Ford, "our long nightmare is over, our constitution is working."

Almost 50 years later and after four years in office of Republican Donald Trump, Joe Biden could take this as an example: "The division in the country, the increasing incompatibility of the two US parties," said historian Jürgen Martschukat in an interview with DW, "has it all has come to a head since the 1970s. " He sees Trump as the "effect of a long simmering conflict between the various camps - between town and country as well as the winners and losers in an increasingly globalized world". Martschukat: "We ignored that for too long".

Turmoil at the White House in 1828 over the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson

Once before, when a president took office, the United States was as torn as it is today, namely after the American Civil War in 1869, when Andrew Johnson passed the presidency on to Ulysses Grant. "This change of office ended perhaps the most decisive phase in American history," said Martschukat. "The fact that the outgoing president was not present reflected the country's turmoil, as it did this time."

Racism divides America - until today

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had declared before the outbreak of the four-year war of civil secession (1861-1865) that he would not tolerate a split. As a reaction to the election of the moderate opponent of slavery as US president, most of the southern states left the Union in the winter of 1860/61. The war with hundreds of thousands dead took its course. Lincoln would never see the Confederate surrender. Shortly after his re-election, he died on April 15, 1865 when an assassin was shot.

The American Civil War raged from 1861 to 1865, killing hundreds of thousands

The main controversy of the civil war was slavery. In fact, racism divides the country to this day and is, as historian Martschukat says, "a central factor" in the political conflict in the USA. That alone made Barack Obama a bearer of hope. Around 1.8 million people wanted to witness how he became the first black US president to take his oath of office on January 20, 2009.

Obama's introduction became a demonstration of the multiculturalism of the USA: Although - as always - the marine band played. But what touched people's hearts was the appearance of Aretha Franklin. She sang the US unofficial national anthem: "My Country, 'Tis of Thee".

Expert in US history: Jürgen Martschukat from the University of Erfurt

It's an ode to freedom. "Land where my fathers died", it says, "Land of the pride of the pilgrim fathers, let the cry of freedom ring out from every mountain slope!" The patriotic song that Samuel Francis Smith wrote in 1831 recalls the way Americans have seen themselves since the Declaration of Independence in 1789:

"It speaks of Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," Martschukat recalls, "these promises were made to all people, but from the start there were people who were excluded." Women, African Americans and other minorities - they all had to fight for these rights first. "The conflict runs through all of American history and has culminated in recent years," the historian analyzes, "that which holds together is also that which divides."

The new US President Joe Biden

In addition to pop icon Lady Gaga, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez also performed at Joe Biden's inauguration. For the inauguration of the future US President and his Vice President Kamala Harris, many more stars had announced themselves. Actor Tom Hanks will host a television special, "Celebrating America". Four years after Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" announcement, it is up to President Biden to deliver on that promise in his own way.

Cartoonist Marian Kamensky had also thought about the inauguration in this way