Inauguration participants announced, program seeks to celebrate ‘American heroes’

WASHINGTON — As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are inaugurated next week, it’ll be alongside some famous names and some local ones.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announcing the participants of the 59th inaugural ceremonies and the “Celebrating America” program this week.

When Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris are sworn in as president and vice president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 20, a variety of participants will join the 59th Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony.

“We are thrilled to announce an inspired group of dynamic participants for the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies. They represent one clear picture of the grand diversity of our great nation and will help honor and celebrate the time-honored traditions of the presidential inauguration as President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris take the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol,” PIC chairman Tony Allen said in a prepared statement.

Father Leo J. O’Donovan, an American Jesuit Catholic priest and theologian who served as the 44th President of Georgetown University, will lead the invocation.

Hailing from New York City, he graduated from Georgetown. Father O’Donovan went on to receive advanced degrees from Fordham University and Woodstock College, and received his doctorate in theology from the University of Münster. Father Leo O’Donovan is a longtime friend of the president-elect and the Biden family.

Andrea Hall, the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920 and a career firefighter with 28 years of dedicated service, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ms. Hall has served in the City of South Fulton Fire and Rescue Department in Fulton County, Georgia since 1999, and she is the first African American woman in the department’s history to be promoted to the rank of Fire Captain in 2004.

Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem. She is also an outspoken activist, philanthropist and supporter of many important issues including mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, HIV/AIDS awareness and body image issues. During the Obama-Biden Administration, she worked closely with President-elect Biden’s “It’s On Us” campaign to address sexual assault on college campuses.

Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in the United States by UrbanWord and the Library of Congress, will give a poetry reading. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in Sociology.

Jennifer Lopez, an award-winning actress, singer, dancer, producer, and businesswoman hailing originally from New York City, will perform.

Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, who serves as the pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, will lead the benediction. Rev. Beaman has known the Biden family for nearly 30 years and is a close confidante and friend of the president-elect. He was also a consistent ally and community partner of his son, Beau, a decorated officer in the Delaware National Guard and Delaware’s former Attorney General.

Also next Wednesday, PIC announced a primetime program, “Celebrating America,” which will air live on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC from 8:30 to 10 p.m.

The program will showcase “the American people’s resilience, heroism, and unified commitment to coming together as a nation to heal and rebuild,” according to a news release.

Hosted by Tom Hanks, this 90-minute prime-time program will feature remarks from Mr. Biden and Sen. Harris and include remarks and performances that represent the rich diversity and extensive talent America offers, including Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Justin Timberlake.

Through different segments and performances, the program seeks to “highlight the strength of our democracy, the perseverance of our people, and our ability to come together during trying times and emerge stronger than ever before,” according to a news release.

The program intends to “celebrate American heroes who are helping their fellow Americans through this crisis, including frontline workers, health care workers, teachers, citizens giving back and those who are breaking barriers,” the release said.

 In addition to airing on TV, it will be streamed live on PIC social media channels: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch. 

The PIC’s streaming partners, including Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNOW from Fox and AT&T DIRECTV and U-verse, will also be carrying the program live.

“We have witnessed countless heroes this past year step up to the frontlines and serve their fellow Americans, so we are telling their stories, spreading their collective light, and celebrating the best of our country and its people with this prime-time program,” said Dr. Allen.

 Over the course of five days of programming, “America United” activities will honor our traditions while safely allowing more Americans than ever before to participate from their own homes. 

These activities include, “United We Serve,” a National Day of Service on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; a nationwide COVID-19 Memorial to Lives Lost on Jan. 19; and the official Inaugural Ceremonies, a wreath laying on Arlington National Cemetery, and a “Parade Across America” on Jan. 20. 

The events will culminate with the “Celebrating America” program. The PIC will also install an extensive public art display — a “Field of Flags,” which will cover the National Mall up to 13th Street — to represent the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, DC.