What we won’t see at this year’s inauguration

President Jimmy Carter speaks at his inauguration ceremony on the East Portico of the US Capitol in 1977. His predecessor, Gerald Ford, is seated on the suitable. This was the final time a swearing-in ceremony was held on the Capitol’s east facet.


It was an uncomfortable experience.

That’s how former President Jimmy Carter described the images of him and his predecessor, Gerald Ford, sharing a limousine on the day of his inauguration. Carter had defeated Ford within the 1980 election, and the 2 males weren’t precisely buddies.

Nevertheless it was essential to each that they carried on with a longstanding custom.

“It was extremely painful for Ford when he misplaced the election, however you didn’t let that stand in the way in which of conceding or doing a great transition as a result of that was the suitable factor to do,” stated David Hume Kennerly, who was Ford’s chief White Home photographer and had a distant digital camera arrange within the limo.

Ford and Carter experience to Capitol Hill for Carter’s inauguration in 1977. Sharing the presidential limo have been Home Speaker Tip O’Neill, entrance left, and US Sen. Howard Cannon.

President George H.W. Bush and first girl Barbara Bush greet the Clintons as they arrive on the White Home earlier than Invoice Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. “I can’t say they have been glad to see (the Clintons) stroll up the steps, however at the least they performed the function,” photographer David Hume Kennerly stated. “And the function is essential for America, and (President Bush) knew that. Regardless of how miserable it was to lose that election — and I do know it was for him — they nonetheless did the present.”

This custom, of the incoming president using to Capitol Hill with the outgoing president, goes all the way in which again to the 19th century — though then it was a horse-drawn carriage as an alternative of a bulletproof limo.

“Whether or not they favored one another or not, they’d experience collectively for the present of unity,” stated Kennerly, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who’s now a presidential scholar on the College of Arizona. “Harry Truman did not like Eisenhower, however he rode as much as the Hill with him. Nixon rode with LBJ. Ford rode with Carter. Reagan beat Carter and rode with him. … Everyone did that. Even Trump rode with Obama.”

However this won’t be the case this 12 months, as President Donald Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden.

Donald Trump shakes Barack Obama’s hand at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony in 2017. At left is former Vice President Joe Biden, who went on to defeat Trump within the 2020 presidential election. “In that one body, you now have three presidents,” Kennerly stated.

President Ronald Reagan and his spouse, Nancy, wave to the group as they experience down Pennsylvania Avenue in the course of the inaugural parade in 1981. The parade has been a staple of inaugurations all through the years, however there received’t be one this 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s post-election actions have annoyed Kennerly, who has coated 13 presidential campaigns and photographed many an inauguration.

“It is a celebration of American democracy, it’s a celebration of how we peacefully switch energy,” he stated. “The symbolism and the imagery of it’s crucial.”

However that has been marred by Trump’s persistent — and baseless — claims that the election was stolen from him.

“Each custom is damaged, together with the peaceable switch of energy after what occurred on January 6,” Kennerly stated, referring to the pro-Trump rioters who breached the US Capitol final week. “You’re not going to have that present of unity as a result of Trump has not conceded the election. It is simply past any form of understanding for me. I do not get it.”

President Gerald Ford and his spouse, Betty, third and fourth from left, welcome Jimmy Carter and his spouse, Rosalynn, to the White Home on Carter’s inauguration day. Subsequent to Betty Ford are Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and his spouse, Margaretta, who have been standing subsequent to Vice President-elect Walter Mondale and his spouse, Joan. “I name that one large sad household,” Kennerly joked.

Vice President George H.W. Bush addresses the company at President Reagan’s inaugural ball in 1981. Bush, in fact, would go on to succeed Reagan as president.

Kids sit on a light-weight pole throughout Reagan’s inaugural parade in 1981.

The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was probably the most contentious in American historical past, with the Supreme Court docket having to finally settle a recount dispute earlier than Gore would concede.

However when he did, Gore went on to attend Bush’s swearing-in ceremony together with Bush’s predecessor, Invoice Clinton.

It’s this type of respect, Kennerly says, that makes Inauguration Day matter.

“It’s not simply to repay the individuals who supported you,” he stated. “It’s to indicate the individuals of the USA that we will do that the suitable means and that’s why we’re completely different than so many different locations.”

President George W. Bush takes the oath of workplace, which was administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2001. “I’ve recognized (Bush) a very long time,” Kennerly stated. “I do know his dad very effectively from the Ford days, and I at all times favored George W. Bush. He’s a really good man. Very personable man. He was an honest human being who had an important humorousness and he favored different individuals.”

Vice President Al Gore, third from proper, talks to Invoice and Hillary Clinton as he attends a White Home reception earlier than the swearing-in ceremony of George W. Bush, left, in 2001. Gore and Bush had simply confronted one another in one of many closest presidential elections in US historical past, however Gore nonetheless confirmed up for the inauguration.

The President’s absence isn’t the one purpose that this inauguration will probably be in contrast to any we’ve ever seen.

The celebrations have been considerably pared down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden’s inaugural committee — attempting to maintain crowds to a minimal — has urged Individuals to not journey to Washington, DC. The Nationwide Mall may also be closed to most of the people due to safety issues, based on an official conversant in discussions.

Normally, 1000’s of individuals collect on the Mall to observe the brand new president being sworn in.

This 12 months, there will probably be 1000’s of Nationwide Guard troops stationed within the nation’s capital.

Hundreds collect to listen to Trump’s inaugural handle, which he delivered from the West Entrance of the US Capitol in 2017. Kennerly doesn’t disguise his dismay for the way in which Trump has been dealing with the transition to Biden. “It’s actually about essentially the most un-American, unpatriotic, unbelievable factor I’ve ever witnessed in my 55 years of watching all these things,” he stated.

Reagan and his spouse, Nancy, attend the inauguration on the West Entrance of the US Capitol in 1981. It was the primary one held on the West Entrance of the US Capitol. “Folks stated that Reagan needed a much bigger venue, however he really had nothing to do with it. They’d already made that call,” Kennerly stated. “They needed it since you might get extra individuals to see it. There was extra room on that facet. It was extra accessible to extra individuals.”

Biden remains to be anticipated to take the oath of workplace from the West Entrance of the US Capitol, the place the general public swearing-in ceremony often takes place.

Ronald Reagan was the primary to be sworn in there, beginning in 1981. Earlier than that, the ceremony was held on the East Portico.

Kennerly vividly remembers the ultimate East Portico ceremony, when Carter took the oath on 1977. “I turned a personal citizen the minute he was sworn in,” joked the previous White Home photographer.

That was Kennerly’s first “correct” inauguration, he stated. A couple of years earlier than that, he was taking images when Nixon resigned and Ford took over.

Jimmy Carter waves from the East Portico throughout his inauguration in 1977. Ford is seen at again left, and Vice President Walter Mondale is on the suitable.

A crowd attends Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

The Nixon transition was a second Kennerly stated he’ll always remember.

“For drama, that’s undoubtedly prime 5 in my life — that second, the one time an American president resigned,” he stated.

Kennerly was on a press riser with different photographers and had only some seconds to immortalize the historic spectacle. It was a fast sequence of images as Nixon waved farewell earlier than boarding his helicopter.

“You may see his lips are pursed, and in that little second it needed to be extremely painful for him on each stage,” Kennerly stated. “He is giving up the presidency. Nobody’s ever carried out it that means, and he was a disgraced chief and he was leaving underneath duress.

“However as soon as once more, it was a peaceable transition. A couple of minutes later, Ford was sworn in as president of the USA. No weapons have been fired, no coup was tried, and as President Ford put it in his remarks, ‘Our lengthy nationwide nightmare is over.’ “

Richard Nixon waves farewell after resigning from workplace in 1974. Kennerly vividly remembers “the sensation and the stress” of the historic second, and he stated it was considered one of most dramatic moments he’s ever photographed.

Ford, Nixon’s vp, is sworn in as president after Nixon resigned. “You recognize what (this second) stated to me? It stated the system works,” Kennerly stated. “This is a man being sworn in as president underneath extraordinary circumstances, and it was a clean turnover. … I used to be watching actually with some delight that our system works, and I am documenting it.”

Kennerly has photographed loads of the pomp and circumstance that comes with Inauguration Day — the gathering of previous presidents, the swearing-in ceremony, the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

However a few of his most fascinating images have been taken away from the tv cameras.

He was within the Oval Workplace on Clinton’s first Inauguration Day, watching as White Home staff swapped out George H.W. Bush’s desk and changed it with the Resolute desk. He photographed first girl Betty Ford standing on a Cupboard Room desk on her final day within the White Home. And he was backstage because the Obamas attended their 10 inaugural balls.

“These are images that can provide you extra perception behind the scenes,” he stated. “And it actually boils right down to the entry of the presidential photographers. All the pieces’s so locked down. This time, (the safety) will probably be insane. There will not be very a lot behind the scenes, exterior the non-public photographer to Biden. That’s my guess.”

White Home Head Usher Reex Scouten, left, supervises a desk swap within the Oval Workplace as Invoice Clinton was set to take workplace. Clinton was going to make use of the Resolute desk, seen at proper. The desk had beforehand been utilized by President John F. Kennedy. “When Clinton got here in, I wasn’t on the Hill for that (inauguration), however I used to be there watching the desk being introduced in,” Kennerly stated. The swap got here proper at midday, as Clinton was taking the oath of workplace.

First girl Betty Ford has a “final dance” on a Cupboard Room desk in 1977. It was the Fords’ final full day within the White Home, and she or he was saying goodbye to staffers when she obtained an concept. “She form of had a twinkle in her eye and stated, ‘You recognize, I’ve at all times needed to bounce on the Cupboard Room desk,’ ” Kennerly recalled. “There have been two Secret Service brokers and me and one different particular person, and so they thought she was kidding. … To her — and I talked together with her later about it — there have been so few girls that ever sat round that desk at that time as Cupboard officers. And that was actually her means of planting that flag proper in the course of the male area.”

President Barack Obama and his spouse, Michelle, share a personal second in an elevator as they head to considered one of their 10 inaugural balls in 2009. “Out of all (of Obama’s) eight years, that image actually stood up as going on to their relationship and who they have been,” Kennerly stated. “It looks like a highschool promenade picture, like she’s carrying his jacket. And even with different individuals round, they’re experiencing a really private second. I didn’t {photograph} Obama very a lot, however I’ll take that image. If I’ve to have one better of every thing I’ve shot of Obama, that may be it.”

So we probably received’t be seeing most of the nice images we’ve seen from previous inaugurations. There will probably be an vacancy in regards to the day, because the celebration is generally meant to be a digital occasion seen on tv.

However to Kennerly, that doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter if it’s the smallest crowd ever within the historical past of an American inauguration.

“What’s actually essential is that this factor’s taking place after the extraordinary circumstances we have witnessed,” he stated. “The primary occasion must occur. Folks have gotten to see it occur.”

Perhaps we see some fascinating images. Perhaps we don’t. However our democracy should go on, and the peaceable transition should happen, because it has all through historical past.

“An important image is Joe Biden together with his proper hand within the air,” Kennerly stated. “That is the one which counts.”

Then-Vice President Joe Biden walks up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after attending an inaugural live performance celebrating Obama’s election in 2009. Kennerly stated he’s not that stunned that Biden is the president-elect 12 years later, though the percentages appeared stacked in opposition to him at first of 2020: “The good cash wouldn’t essentially have been on Joe Biden this time round, however paradoxically he is precisely the suitable particular person for the job now.”

Ford jokes with a few of the White Home maids in his last hours as President. “President Ford handled all people the identical,” Kennerly stated. “Everyone liked him. … He was not solely right down to Earth, however he had an important coronary heart. He knew all the family employees by title, and since I spent a lot time up there with him, I noticed it firsthand.”

George W. Bush leaves the White Home as President for the final time in 2009. He was about to take the normal limo experience to the US Capitol together with his successor, President-elect Obama, at proper.

Employees put together the parade stands earlier than Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

Newly sworn-in President George W. Bush and first girl Laura Bush stroll alongside the parade route in the course of the inauguration celebration in 2001.

First girl Betty Ford, proper, poses with Rosalynn Carter within the Blue Room previous to departing the White Home in 1977.

Vice President Joe Biden and his spouse, Jill, watch the inaugural parade with the Obamas in 2009. Kennerly stated he doesn’t know Biden effectively however he photographed him many occasions in his years as a US senator. “The factor about Joe Biden is his coronary heart is simply on the market,” Kennerly stated.

Whereas Obama was being sworn in because the 44th president, his household’s possessions have been being unloaded from shifting vehicles and put in place within the White Home residing quarters.

Ford seems out on the Capitol throughout his helicopter experience after Carter’s swearing-in. He needed the very last thing he noticed to be the Capitol as a result of he had served within the Home of Representatives for thus a few years. “It was a tragic second actually. I bear in mind it that means. He didn’t say a lot,” Kennerly stated.

David Hume Kennerly is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and a presidential scholar on the College of Arizona. He was President Gerald Ford’s chief White Home photographer. Comply with him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Picture editors: Brett Roegiers and Bernadette Tuazon



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