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Biden tells allies America is back, but Macron and Merkel push back

President Biden used his first public meeting with America’s European allies to describe a new struggle between the West and the forces of autocracy, declaring that “America is back” while acknowledging that the the past four years had weighed on its power and influence.

His message stressing the importance of re-energizing alliances and resuming the defense of Europe was, as might be expected, well received at a session of the Munich security conference at which Mr Biden s ‘is addressed from the White House.

But there was also reluctance, especially on the part of French President Emmanuel Macron, who in his speech passionately defended his concept of “strategic autonomy” from the United States, arguing that Europe cannot may no longer be too dependent on the United States. States because it focuses its attention more on Asia, especially China.

And even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is stepping down within the year, tempered her praise for Mr. Biden’s decision to cancel plans to withdraw 12,000 American troops from the country by warning that “our interests will not converge. not always”. It seemed to be a reference to Germany’s ambivalence towards China – a major market for its high-end German automobiles and other products – and the ongoing battle with the United States for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. to Russia.

But the three leaders seemed to recognize that their first virtual meeting was a time to celebrate the end of the ‘America First’ era, and for Mr Macron and Ms Merkel to once again welcome Mr Biden, a politician they knew well. of his years as a senator and vice-president.

And Mr Biden used the moment to warn of the need for a common strategy to fend off an internet-fueled narrative, promoted by two Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China, that the chaos surrounding the elections America was another sign of democratic weakness and decline.

“We have to demonstrate that democracies can still be of use to our people in this changed world,” Biden said, adding: “We have to prove that our model is not a relic of history.”

For the president, a regular visitor to the conference even as a private citizen after serving as vice president, the speech was kind of a homecoming. Given the pandemic, the Munich conference was reduced to a multi-hour video meeting. A brief closed-door Group of 7 Allies meeting that Biden also attended, hosted this year by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was also captured via video.

The next in-person summit meeting is still scheduled for Britain this summer, if the pandemic permits.

Mr Biden never named his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, in his remarks, but framed them to erase the traces of Trumpism in the US approach to the world. He celebrated his return to the Paris climate agreement, which went into effect just before the meeting, and a new initiative, announced Thursday evening, to join Britain, France and Germany to engage diplomatically Iran in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal that Mr. Trump pulled out.

But rather than detailing an agenda, Mr. Biden attempted to recall the first principles that led to the Atlantic alliance and the creation of NATO in 1949, towards the start of the Cold War.

“Democracy is not the result of chance,” said the president. “We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. “

In a deliberate contrast to Mr Trump, who has spoken of withdrawing from NATO and has repeatedly refused to recognize the responsibilities of the United States under Article V of the alliance’s charter to come into effect aid to members under attack, Biden launched the The United States stands ready to shoulder its responsibilities as a pillar of the alliance.

“We will keep the faith” with obligation, he said, adding that “an attack on one is an attack on all.”

But he also urged Europe to think about the challenges in a new way – different from the Cold War, even if the two biggest geostrategic adversaries seem familiar.

“We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China,” he said, pointing to “cyberspace, artificial intelligence and biotechnology” as the new territory for competition. And he pleaded for pushing back Russia – he referred to Mr. Putin by his last name, with no attached title – specifically mentioning the need to respond to the SolarWinds attack that targeted federal and corporate computer networks.

“Tackling recklessness and hacking of Russian computer networks in the United States, Europe and the world has become essential to protect collective security,” Biden said.

The president avoided delving into the difficult question of how to get Russia to pay the price without escalating the confrontation. A high-ranking White House cyber official told reporters this week that the scope and depth of the Russian intrusion is still under consideration, and officials are clearly struggling to find options to fulfill the pledge of Mr. Biden to make Mr. Putin pay the price for the attack. .

But it is the dynamic of Mr. Macron, who has become accustomed to criticizing the NATO alliance as close to “brain death” and no longer “relevant” since the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, which has caught the attention.

Mr Macron wants NATO to act more as a political body, a place where European members have a status equivalent to that of the United States and are less subject to the American tendency to dominate decision-making.

A Europe better able to defend itself, and more autonomous, would make NATO “even stronger than before”, insisted Mr. Macron. He said Europe should be “much more in charge of its own security”, increasing its defense spending commitments to “rebalance” transatlantic relations.

This is not a view widely shared by the many European states unwilling to spend the necessary money, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are unwilling to leave their security to anyone except the United States. .

Mr. Macron also insisted that the renovation of NATO’s security capabilities should involve “a dialogue with Russia”. NATO has always maintained that it is open to better relations with Moscow, but that Russia is not interested, especially as long as international sanctions remain after it took Crimea from Ukraine about seven years ago. years.

But Mr Macron, speaking in English to answer a question, also argued that Europe cannot rely on the United States as much as it has in recent decades. “We need to shoulder more of the burden of our own protection,” he said.

In practice, it will take many years for Europe to put in place a defense weapon that would make it more autonomous. But Mr Macron is determined to start now, just as he is determined to increase the technological capabilities of the European Union so that it becomes less dependent on US and Chinese supply chains.

Mr Biden, on the other hand, is keen to deepen those supply chains – both hardware and software – among like-minded Western allies in a bid to reduce Chinese influence. He is preparing to come up with a new joint project for European and American technology companies in areas such as semiconductors and the types of software that Russia has exploited in the SolarWinds hack.

It was Merkel who insisted on the complexities of relations with China, given its dual role as a competitor and an indispensable partner of the West.

“In recent years, China has gained global influence and, as transatlantic partners and democracies, we must do something to counter this,” said Merkel.

“Russia is continually dragging members of the European Union into hybrid conflicts,” she said. “Therefore, it is important that we work out a transatlantic agenda towards Russia that makes offers of cooperation on the one hand, but on the other hand names the differences very clearly.”

As Mr Biden announced he would honor the US pledge to donate $ 4 billion to the campaign to speed up the manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world – a move approved last year by a House led by Democrats and a Senate led by Republicans – there were marked differences in approach during the meeting.

Stressing the importance that the European Union places on Africa, Macron called on Western countries to provide 13 million doses of vaccines to African governments “as soon as possible” to protect health workers.

He warned that if the alliance fails to do so, “our African friends will be pressured by their populations, and rightly so, to buy doses from the Chinese, the Russians or directly from the laboratories.”

Vaccine donations would reflect “a common desire to move forward and share the same values,” Macron said. Otherwise, “the power of the West, of Europeans and Americans, will only be a concept and not a reality”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, also on Friday urged countries and drug makers to help speed up the manufacture and distribution of vaccines across the world, warning that the world could be “Back to place 1” if some countries continued their vaccination campaigns and left others.

“Immunization equity is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest thing to do,” Dr Tedros told the Munich conference. He argued that the longer it would take to vaccinate populations in each country, the more the pandemic would get out of hand.

Melissa Eddy, Elian peltier and Mark Landler contribution to reports.

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Video: ‘America is back’: Biden presents his vision for global leadership

TimesVideo ‘America Is Back’: Biden Outlines Vision for World Leadership President Biden has said the United States will mend alliances after years of “abuse.” He also announced a freeze on troop withdrawals from Germany and a diplomatic focus on ending the war in Yemen, per The New York Times.

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Risk everything to come to America on the Open Ocean

The border with Mexico stretches far beyond the desert. Stricter enforcement on land has prompted record numbers of migrants to attempt dangerous water crossings.

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A cabinet that “looks like America”. But who is speaking?

– Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, Principal Investigator at the Miller Center, University of Virginia


President Biden’s proposed cabinet would be the most diverse in U.S. history, comprising more women and people of color than any cabinet before him – which, in many ways, fulfills the campaign promise of Mr. Biden to select a team that “looks like America” ​​and is modernizing. the predominantly male and white institution.

“Building a diverse team will lead to better results and more effective solutions to deal with the urgent crises facing our nation,” he said in a speech in December when announcing some of his candidates. in the cabinet.

If the Senate upholds Mr Biden’s choices, more than half of his 25-member cabinet will be non-white and 48% will be women, according to an analysis by the non-profit group Inclusive America, which tracks diversity within the government.

And there will be other notable firsts: In addition to Vice President Kamala Harris, there will be the United States’ first female Treasury secretary (Janet Yellen), its openly gay first secretary (Pete Buttigieg, for the U.S. Department of Transport), its first Native American secretary (Deb Haaland, for the Ministry of the Interior), the first woman to hold the post of director of national intelligence (Avril Haines) and the first immigrant to head the Ministry of Homeland Security (Alejandro Mayorkas), to name a few.

In positions beyond cabinet – like senior White House officials, the new chairman of the Covid-19 fairness task force, or deputy department secretaries – the Biden administration is “on par or better than The makeup of the overall US population, said Mark Hanis, co-founder of Inclusive America. Women make up 60% of the team beyond the cabinet, and just over 40% of that team is not white.

In the last four administrations, cabinets – which can change in size if the president decides to elevate certain positions to cabinet level – were predominantly white and women made up no more than 33%.

“No matter how you slice and slice the data, whether you look at the cabinet or the White House staff, you’re going to see the same commitment to diversity,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, senior fellow at the University of Virginia. Miller Center, which specializes in presidential scholarships.

These levels of diversity are particularly notable compared to Congress figures. Women’s representation in both the House and Senate has hovered between just under 20% and 25% since 2015, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, and currently about 20% of lawmakers in the House and Senate are black. or Latino.

But ticking off a list of diverse candidates is one thing. It is quite another to give diverse candidates a real voice and opportunity to shape policy, especially if one of those candidates is the first of a particular group to hold a position.

Within the cabinet, there is a hierarchy of influence based on the competence of their ministry, explained Dr Tenpas. Leadership in military or monetary policy is seen as more influential than, for example, education, which has a narrower set of responsibilities.

The five most important positions in the cabinet, informally known as the “internal cabinet,” are Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security (a critical post created in response to the September 11 attacks) and the attorney general, she said. , because of their broad competence. Traditionally, vice presidents did not have much authority, but this position has grown in recent years and has also become one of the most influential positions in the cabinet, as demonstrated by former vice presidents. -Presidents Dick Cheney and Mr. Biden.

Other secretaries in a cabinet represent what are known as “constituency-based” or “client-based” departments and are seen to have less influence, Dr Tenpas added. Often, women and people of color in cabinet are classified into these “outside cabinet” roles, such as education, veterans affairs or agriculture.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that women have served in cabinet – Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton have all served as Secretary of State and Janet Reno and Loretta Lynch as Attorney General – but have women. as Secretary of the Treasury and Vice-President. president changes the precedent and shakes up the power dynamics of the president’s inner circle.

“Sir. Biden’s biggest breakthrough is that he appoints different people to different jobs,” Dr. Tenpas said.


In Her Words is written by Alisha Haridasani Gupta and edited by Francesca Donner. Graphics by Lalena Fisher. Our Artistic Director is Catherine Gilmore-Barnes and our Photo Editor is Sandra Stevenson.

Did someone forward this email to you? register here to obtain future payments. Write to us at inherwords@nytimes.com. Follow us on Instagram at @nytgender.

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Reviewer’s Notebook: “Celebrating America” ​​promised the day is coming.

Inaugural balls are usually thrown for the winners. After a long and fierce campaign, the newly elected leaders, their families and supporters have a chance to dress up and have fun.

That, like so much in this pandemic, was not going to happen this year. Instead, “Celebrating America,” the multi-media star-filled inauguration day special, took the national side.

This meant, to begin with, that the atmosphere was much less festive. The big reason was written in lights: the Reflecting Pool memorial, in honor of Covid’s death in America, which faced the Bruce Springsteen opening act from its night scene at the Lincoln Memorial. The tone was not so much that of a victory as of a boost in morale.

Which is not to say that “Celebrating America” was apolitical. He centered and valued President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who were in fact the candidates of one party that beat another in a hotly contested (and fiercely contested) election.

It didn’t require you to be happy that they won, but it at least assumed that you were able to be happy for them. It is undoubtedly a decisive factor for part of the country.

But the politics of the special, as defined by host Tom Hanks, were less a matter of politics and more of a political disease diagnosis and hope for a cure. “Over the past few weeks, over the past few years, we have witnessed deep divisions and troubling resentment in our country,” said Mr. Hanks. It was like a telethon for body politic cancer.

The show’s policy was open but not specific. Mr Biden, in Lincoln’s shadow, made remarks on the triumph of democracy (a repudiation of undemocratic attacks on the election, but only between the lines).

Ms. Harris said that in America, “we don’t just see what has been, we see what can be,” citing the civil rights and women’s rights movements. You might read a reference to her election, which broke racial and gender barriers, but she let you do that on your own.

Likewise, when former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama seemed to wish Mr. Biden good luck and talk about shared American values, they did not need to point the finger at Donald J. Trump for American toxicity. . We had seen him before ourselves – or had not seen him, ostensibly, at his opponent’s inauguration.

As an entertainment show, “Celebrating America” has kept its aesthetic, like its politics, basic and broad. (No one expects or wants the edginess of a Joe Biden production.) The all-star roster wasn’t exactly apolitical: the fact that Mr. Trump was never able to put together a Hollywood roster like this- it was not an accident.

But the cast and art were aggressively normalized and mainstream, and the performances stuck to one theme: hope in a dark time.

The songs referred to darkness and light and dawn: John Legend performs “Feeling Good”, Demi Lovato does “Lovely Day”, Jon Bon Jovi covering The Beatles‘”Here is the sun.” The nightly performance tweaks also placed emphasis on highlighting the dark even before Katy Perry performed “Firework” to the actual fireworks over the mall.

The subtext of “Celebrate America” ​​was inevitably political: politics puts countries in big trouble, and public action is often the only way out. (In pandemic America, even the fact that members of a country band wear masks on stage inevitably and sadly sounds like a political statement.)

But the content was more of the entertainment policy equivalent of a chain restaurant with a big menu: it wasn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, but everyone could find something on the menu for them. And what the country was most hungry for right now, “Celebrating America” ​​guessed, was believing, along with Jon Bon Jovi, that the long, cold and lonely winter would end and the sun would come.

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Harris says America must have “the courage to see beyond the crisis.”

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a televised speech Wednesday night that even in times of historic turmoil, Americans keep trying to improve their country and she pleaded with the nation to have “the courage to see beyond the crisis ”.

Ms Harris, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, where 400 lights signify the 400,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus, stressed that she remains optimistic because of the ‘American aspiration’ and the innovation she has seen from doctors , teachers, parents and others who were working to overcome the challenges of the moment.

Like President Biden, who spoke minutes before her from inside the Lincoln Memorial, Ms. Harris compared the threat of the coronavirus pandemic to two crises of the previous two centuries: civil war and movement. civil rights.

“Even in dark times, we don’t just dream, we do it,” Ms. Harris said. She said that in these pivotal moments in American history, Abraham Lincoln “saw and built a better future,” and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “fought for racial justice and justice. economic justice ”.

To face the moment, she said, Americans must continue to “refine,” “tinker with” and “perfect” the nation, which she said was already happening amid the pandemic.

Mr. Biden called on Americans to “do the hard things,” she said, “to do the right thing, to unite, to believe in ourselves, to believe in our country – to believe in what we can do together ”.

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Video: Watch Live: Tom Hanks Hosts ‘Celebrating America’

TimesVideoWatch Live: Tom Hanks welcomes President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris to “Celebrating America” ​​hosted by Tom Hanks in honor of the inauguration. By Reuters.

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For many across America, a sigh of relief as a new era begins

Early on the morning of the opening day, she put on her pandemic-era work clothes of gray sweatpants and a white shirt and ground the beans. Then, with her cup of coffee, she watched on her kitchen television the green and white helicopter take flight, evacuating the outgoing 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump from the White House.

In this kitchen, in a colonial brick house in Watertown, Massachusetts, tears came to the eyes of the woman, Karolyn Kurkjian-Jones. Tears of unfailing joy.

“It’s over, it’s over, it’s over,” said Ms. Kurkjian-Jones, a retired kindergarten teacher and janitor on pandemic leave at the Boston Park Plaza hotel later. “He left.”

Since the November election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as 46th President, much attention has been paid to the conspiracy theories of Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump – especially those who, taking into account his combustible comments on a stolen election, invaded the Capitol in a wave of violence and vandalism on January 6.

But so many Americans, nearly 81.3 million of them, are like Ms. Kurkjian-Jones, people who voted for Mr. Biden and against Mr. Trump. And, on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after the Capitol attack, they celebrated with booze and pastries, with Zoom calls and “Amazing Grace” and tears of joy, a new day: a day when a nation pressed a reset button.

In Chicago, not far from a bakery that does great deals with grand opening-themed goodies – a Wonder Woman cake with the face of Vice President Kamala Harris, for example – Sarah Rassey, 40, has planned to attend the inauguration with his daughter, Madeleine, who also turned 5.

“I feel lighter,” Ms. Rassey said of Mr. Biden’s presidency. “I’m just grateful, relieved, happy – and, honestly, I’ve been crying tears of joy since last night.

In Texas, two sisters – both of Killeen’s special education teachers – drove over an hour to be outside the State Capitol in Austin in time to watch the opening on a cell phone. Norma Luna, 49, and Sylvia Luna, 43, were there in part to honor a third sister, Veronica, 56, who died of coronavirus on polling day.

“It’s a relief,” Norma Luna cried, watching the ceremony. “I didn’t think we could get here. We are proud to be Americans again. “

In Annandale, Va., Isra Chaker, 30, an advocate for refugees and asylum seekers at Oxfam America, felt liberated from the need to justify her ‘Americanity’ under the Trump administration – even though she was born and raised by Syrian immigrants in Boulder. , Colo.

“Today I know I belong here,” said Ms. Chaker, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab. “It was reaffirmed that we are all America and America is all of us.”

And at Calamari’s Squid Row restaurant in Erie, Pa., Vodka was the midday alcohol of choice among some women who call themselves the Drinking Girls. Mary Jo Campbell, 70, a retired college professor and Erie County Democratic Party official, was there along with friends Linda and Kathy, Alice, Cheryl, Karen, Amy and Emily – a group of compassionately assembled after Mr. Trump was elected in 2016.

They took off their masks to sip with glee. They applauded the moment Mr. Biden took power. They joined Garth Brooks to sing “Amazing Grace”. And then they sipped some more.

“Everyone was hooting and screaming,” said Ms. Campbell, 70, who wore Ruth Bader Ginsburg earrings to offset her blue “Pennsylvania for Biden” t-shirt.

This inauguration seemed to represent more than the routine transition of power from one political party to another. Mr. Trump’s breaking of standards, culminating in his refusal to concede an election he lost, and then his urging his supporters to march on Capitol Hill – leading to indictments and his second indictment – made the seismic moment: a shift from one distinct era to another, with the question of who we are as a republic suddenly open to debate.

In Berkeley, Calif., A software engineer named Martin Turon walked his labradoodle past Thousand Oaks Elementary School, where a guard had hung a congratulatory banner featuring an elder: Vice President Kamala Harris. Mr. Turon said he was very proud of Ms. Harris, but the overwhelming emotion he felt was relief, not glee.

“Do you really celebrate right after a big earthquake, when everything is broken?” Asked Mr. Turon. “When you pick up planks and rubble from the streets?”

Indeed, there have been small spasms of dissent from those who still do not accept Mr Biden as duly elected president, although reporters and members of the National Guard outnumber protesters in outside state capitals. But then it was a day when those who made recognizing the legitimacy of the election – that is, most of the country – was the moment.

The change actually started hours earlier, when Mr Trump and his wife, Melania, stepped out – his extra-long red tie, dark sunglasses – from the White House to board the Marine helicopter. One, to appear shortly after at Joint Base Andrews. to address a small crowd of loyalists. As Mr. Trump recited what he said were the accomplishments of his administration – a recitation punctuated by a vow to “come back in some form or another” – the panoply of American flags, waved by the morning breeze, seemed choppy .

Meanwhile, in a Massachusetts town 430 miles to the northeast, retired kindergarten teacher Ms. Kurkjian-Jones harbored a strong sense of good riddance.

After Mr. Trump was sworn in in 2017, Ms. Kurkjian-Jones began a four-year ritual of sending a colorful postcard to the White House every day except Sunday that said “Donald Trump frees your taxes” – this that he never did. She always signed the card with her name and the initials ABM – “for ‘America’s big mistake’,” she said.

Now, around noon, Mrs Kurkjian-Jones raised a glass of Moët champagne as a toast to her successor’s swearing-in. “A long time to come,” she said.

Many still believe in Mr. Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud. Aftershocks from the attack on the Capitol included a militarized lockdown for the dedication ceremonies. And the pandemic, which claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people in the United States, has required the continued attention of overworked healthcare workers across the country.

As the inauguration unfolded in Washington, struggles for life and death continued at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles. “I’m so tired of closing the black body bags,” said nurse Amanda Hamilton as the distant ceremony continued. “It’s exciting that we have a president who really cares about this and could do something about it.

Seconds later, the call for a “code blue”: a woman in her early fifties whose heart had slowed and oxygen had dropped. Ms. Hamilton rushed into the hallway to help insert a breathing tube.

Yet these realities could not take away for some the feeling of deep relief of the day.

Karin Wraley Barbee, 48, an English professor at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich., Said the day felt like a bookend in the aftermath of Mr Trump’s 2016 victory, when she was teaching in college but felt she could burst in tears anytime.

“I’m not naive enough to think that everything is fine; it is not, ”she said. “Everyone is very, very awake and invested in fixing what has been damaged.”

Mr. Barbee finished teaching a composition class at 11:50 a.m., then ran to her office, where she managed to catch the new president’s swearing-in on her computer. She could hear a few colleagues applauding at the time. And then she said, “Two of us did a little dance.”

Reporting was contributed by Ellen barry, Julie bosman, Sheri fink, Thomas fuller, Miriam Jordan and David Montgomery.

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“Virtual Parade Across America” ​​with dances, drums and dogs.

With the coronavirus pandemic interrupting the traditional presidential parade from the Capitol to the White House, the inauguration of President Biden replaced it with a montage designed for the screens of artists from the 56 states, territories and Washington, DC

Mr Biden and First Lady Jill Biden entered the White House for the first time as First Family shortly before 4 p.m., and the virtual “Parade Across America” ​​has now begun.

The hour-long festivities are hosted by Tony Goldwyn, who played the chairman on “Scandal,” and include an appearance by former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, a reunion of The New Radicals, something called Dance Across America and Nathan Apodaca, the man from Idaho who went viral on TikTok this summer for skateboarding, drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac.

Among the bands performing are a student equestrian team from Culver Academies in Indiana, the South Shore Drill Team from Chicago, the Kilgore College Rangerettes from Texas and Bango, the mascot of the Milwaukee professional basketball franchise. Bucks. (Remember, the Democratic National Convention was supposed to take place in the Bucks arena.)

A small group will march through Washington which will include drums from the alma maters of Mr. Biden (University of Delaware) and Vice President Kamala Harris (Howard University). According to the inaugural presidential committee, the virtual parade will include 1,391 participants, 95 horses and nine dogs.

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Video: Poet Amanda Gorman Says America Can Be The ‘Light’ It Needs

TimesVideoPoet Amanda Gorman Says America Can Be the “Light” It Needs 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration by the New York Times.