On Jan. 20, students gathered in the Walb Classic Ballroom at Purdue University Fort Wayne to watch a livestream of history in the making as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on the nation’s Capitol.
The event, which drew a handful of students, was co-hosted by the honors program and the political science department at the university.
Shortly after 11 a.m., students watched a livestream of Harris being sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to do so.
Just before noon, they watched President Obama’s former vice president, Biden, take the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States. At age 78, he’s the oldest person to become president.
Four years ago, the university held a similar event for the inauguration of former President Donald Trump. This time, students were seated at individual tables throughout the room to practice social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that also limited the number of guests at the inauguration.
Mike Wolf, chair of the political science department, noted that the local event’s attendance was lower than it had been in previous years. To further discuss the inauguration with his students, he also hosted a question-and-answer session with other department professors via a video call.
Students like La-Kendra Deitche expressed optimism about the nation’s transition to a Biden-Harris administration. Deitche hopes the new administration will prioritize issues like COVID-19 and racial injustice.
“He was not my first choice for president, but I’m extremely proud that our country, even after what happened on Jan. 6 (during the insurrection at the Capitol), has sworn in a new president,” Deitche said, “and I’m extremely proud of Kamala Harris: the first South Asian vice president, the first black woman as vice president.”
Deitche, a political science major with a certificate in international studies, hopes the historic moment will make a difference in how children of color see themselves.
“I’m a substitute teacher, and I see so many kids with shirts that say ‘My VP looks like me,’ so that is huge,” Deitche said.
Following the inauguration ceremony, Deitche gave a 10-minute presentation on the role of party polarization in contemporary American politics. Other students also gave presentations as part of their senior seminar class.
“I know a lot of people I’ve talked to — a lot of seniors are concerned with the job market,” Deitche said.
“I, however, have been accepted into law school, so for me, I’m going to keep track of this administration and what they do, but I’m also really hoping to make a difference as soon as I step foot off the campus.”