My Experience at the Inauguration

Jacob Monroe ’23 reflects on his time at the historic Inauguration of President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris.


Jacob and his family at the Inauguration on the 20th.

Jacob Monroe, Contributor

On January 20th, 2021, I attended the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris in Washington D.C. My biggest take away from attending the Inauguration was to dream bigger.

Seeing someone who also grew up in the Bay Area reach such an influential position in the U.S. was extremely inspiring. Harris has faced many challenges as a Black and Asian woman, and it has been a struggle for her to achieve Vice Presidency. Morover, seeing that this country is ready to vote a woman of color into office reveals how far this country has come. Harris has ties to Bishop O’Dowd High School from her sister, Maya Harris (’84), her niece, Meena Harris (’02), and other people who she grew up with, including my father. As an O’Dowd student, her success has shown me that you truly can do anything you put your mind to, no matter your ethnic background or gender.

At the inauguration, it was incredible to see so many powerful leaders all in one place. Being so close to people like Barack Obama at an event so historic and powerful was an amazing experience. As my family and I were leaving the inauguration, we were lucky enough to see many large political figures, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and CNN Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. 

While the inaguration was inspiring to see, it was also a time to reflect upon what happened in that same area just two weeks ago. When walking through and around the Capitol, I remembered watching the news earlier this January showing thousands of people trying to storm the U.S. Capitol and destroy democracy. It was surreal to think that people filled with so much hatred were causing violence and chaos just days before on the same steps we were currently walking on.

Exploring around in the city of D.C. was like walking around a ghost town. A city normally filled with millions of people during the Inauguration was now completely empty, and businesses were boarded up. Every block and street I saw was filled with either police or national guard soldiers. However, despite the unrest, there was never a moment that I did not feel safe or protected in D.C. My entire family was transported with motorcades surrounding the buses we were on. 

Watching  Harris take the oath right in front of me with all my family, was a special moment. Slaves were freed by Abraham Lincoln just over 150 years ago, and now we were witnessing the first Black and female Vice President in the history of the United States be sworn into office. Experiencing this historic moment surrounded by my family and others from Oakland and Berkeley was breathtaking. Out of the millions of people that would usually be there on Inauguration Day, I was one of the just 1,900 people there during the pandemic.

After going to the inauguration, we were brought to the front of the White House to watch a parade of marching bands and watch the President and Vice President enter the gates of their houses. My family was then brought to the Lincoln Memorial, where we watched fireworks shoot up across D.C., alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff. It was one of the most exciting moments of the entire week.

After attending these events, I was inspired to think about how I could create change and become as impactful of leaders as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.