Archmere Academy Alumni Joseph R. Biden ‘61 Inaugurated as President in a Unique Ceremony


Natalie Gildea, Editor-at-Large

“In a turbulent and uncertain world, we must expect crisis to be a constant no matter what we do. But I am convinced that we can deal confidently and successfully with whatever may befall us.” These words appear in a 1979 edition of Archmere’s magazine The Archmerean, written by then-U.S. Senator and Archmere graduate Joseph R. Biden ‘61 as he proclaimed his hopes for the coming decade.

Last week, the world watched as Joe Biden emphasized the same value of American resolve in his inaugural speech as the 46th President of the United States. The former Vice President, now the first Archmere alumni to serve as President, pushed for national perseverance amid the tension and conflicts plaguing the country. “Will we master this rare and difficult hour?” he asked. “I believe we will.” 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden’s inauguration ceremony looked different than those of his predecessors. Fears of potential further disruption resulted in the presence of about 25,000 National Guard members protecting the National Mall. Some attending government officials reportedly wore body armor to the event, taking extra precautions. All in attendance, however, were sporting face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19; some could even be spotted doubling up. And once each inauguration speaker concluded their statement, the podium was disinfected as a safety measure. 

Still, the most striking contrast between Biden’s inauguration and prior ones took its form in the vacant stretches of the National Mall, where throngs of people would typically bear witness to the event. As most Americans watched the inauguration from their homes, a colorful “field of flags” stood in place of the crowds, each one of them representing a different region of the country. The display demonstrated that the ceremony was “an inclusive and safe event,” according to the Inaugural Committee. 

Biden’s new administration also illustrated the steps in inclusivity that the nation is making. California senator Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first African American, first Asian American, and first woman to hold the office of Vice President. The inauguration ceremony sought to commend the achievement, honoring the hope it holds for the people. Senator Amy Klobuchar remarked, “Little boys and girls across the world will know that anything, and everything, is possible” when seeing Harris take her oath of office. 

In his inaugural speech, Biden stressed that the changes his administration will bring serve as opportunities for Americans to “start fresh” and put aside their differences, urging them to “see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors.” He proclaimed a need for the nation to end its “uncivil war,” condemning hatred and calling for a renewed sense of community and respect for others amid unprecedented times. 

Biden also referenced his Catholic faith during the speech, stating that all Americans should focus on, in the words of Saint Augustine, “common objects of their love.” At Archmere’s Inauguration Prayer Service that was broadcast on YouTube later that day, a passage from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians read by Archmere senior Sean Vanson echoed that sentiment, which said that people should be “diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In his calls for togetherness, Biden shows his connection to the values of unity that Archmere strives to instill in its students.

According to President Biden, his experience at Archmere played a major role in his development as an orator. During a previous visit to the school, he claimed that “the priests here at Archmere gave me the confidence to speak” during his time as the class president in his junior and senior years, when he struggled with public speaking. On Wednesday, Biden expressed his message of community and faith to people from across the globe, exemplifying what an Archmere background can encourage someone to achieve. Biden’s accomplishment serves as an inspiration for all Archmere Auks to follow their dreams — it is a shining example of what those ambitions can lead to.