In what essentially was their first formal act together as President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris visited Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Wednesday afternoon.
Except for the swearing in, and a somewhat less formal welcoming event involving congressional leaders, the tradition marked the first formal action not just by Biden as President, but by the first woman ever to hold national elected office in America.
Consequently, Americans were given a new vision: the sight of a woman Vice President, Harris, walking stride-for-stride beside the President through one of the most solemn of American ceremonies.
Biden and Harris were joined by First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who stood on the stairs a few yards behind their spouses. Also there, as tradition provided, were former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and former President Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama.
Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter could not attend because of their health. Former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump did not attend because he did not want to.
The newly-elected Democrats arrived walking in from behind the tomb, after everyone else was in place.
Biden and Harris stood at attention, Biden saluting and Harris with her hand over her heart, through the National Anthem. They then approached a wreath placed before the tomb. Both bowed their heads in prayer. Biden, a devout Catholic, crossed himself. After a moment, they turned and retreated a few steps. They turned again and saluted again as Taps played on a single drum and bugle. Taps was followed by a second moment of prayer for all.
Biden and Harris left up the stairs and through the Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial at the top of the stairs. Except for the color guard leader who called commands, no one spoke during the ceremony, which took about 10 minutes from the President’s and Vice President’s arrival to their departure.