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Set Amid A Pandemic, Biden's Inauguration Will Feel Unlike Any We've Seen

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now we go to NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea to find out what we can expect this Wednesday on this very different Inauguration Day.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: This will absolutely feel unlike any inauguration ceremony we've seen. That glorious Capitol dome will still provide a gleaming backdrop to everything, but it will also ensure that memories of the deadly insurgency and rioting will be top of mind as well. The massive inauguration platform will, as always, provide a stage for the incoming president and vice president and all the dignitaries. And they'll still be all the history that is always an invisible presence at such ceremonies.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN F KENNEDY: And so, my fellow Americans...

GONYEA: Old speeches will still echo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KENNEDY: ...Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: President John F. Kennedy delivered that line 60 years ago. It sets a standard for all inaugural speeches since. Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama will be attending. That's a tradition. Vice President Mike Pence will be there. President Trump will not attend - his lies about election fraud and the violence at the Capitol the reason for all of the extra security at this event. We will still have the speeches and the poetry and the prayers. They'll be military bands and stunning vocal performances, the kind Aretha Franklin delivered for President Obama back in 2009.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

GONYEA: This year's vocalists - Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. Watching on television, some of it may actually look almost normal, especially as cameras zoom in on President Biden delivering his speech in the January chill. It won't be normal. The post-ceremony parade down Pennsylvania Avenue - that is also canceled because of pandemic concerns but also saving security planners another big headache. It has been replaced by a virtual event, the kind of thing we've gotten used to, even if it's a far cry from the real thing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that was our Don Gonyea there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.