Biden’s Inauguration Will Feature Tom Hanks and Others

Biden’s Inauguration Will Feature Tom Hanks and Others

So many people thronged President Andrew Jackson’s inaugural reception that he was said to have escaped the White House through a window. President John F. Kennedy enlisted a Rat Pack friend, Frank Sinatra, to arrange the entertainment when he took office. And, well, the Obamas danced to Beyoncé.

The transfer of presidential power in the United States has always been a signature political event, but over the centuries it has developed into a major cultural touchstone as well — a swirl of parades, parties and performances shedding light every four years on the nation’s culture, the tastes of its leaders and the images they seek to project.

But with the coronavirus pandemic entering a deadlier phase, and Washington on edge after the riot at the Capitol and warnings of yet more security threats, the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be different by necessity. It will join a long line of national events — big sports games, the Democratic National Convention, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and New Year’s Eve in Times Square — that have been forced to scale down and adapt to a socially distant, remote world.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee announced that it would hold a prime time television event Jan. 20 featuring celebrities including Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake and Jon Bon Jovi that aims to “showcase the American people’s resilience, heroism, and unified commitment to coming together as a nation to heal and rebuild.”

So, as the country prepares to usher in the Biden era with a series of atypical inaugural events conceived to meet the dire needs of the day, here is a look at how politics has crossed with culture at some of the history-making inaugural moments of the past.

Ms. Mann, the historian, said that she viewed the entertainment at Kennedy’s inauguration — featuring Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Ethel Merman, Harry Belafonte and other huge stars — as a “big moment” that would set the stage for the type of glamorous, multipart inaugural blowouts American have come to expect.


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