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Inauguration Parade Goes Virtual Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

By tradition, a newly inaugurated president of the United States is escorted to the White House with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Well, the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the in-person procession for President Biden. Instead, we got the Parade Across America, a made-for-TV event with dancers, drum lines, singers and athletes from across the country, a lot like the virtual Democratic National Convention. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea joins us from in front of the real White House.

Hi, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: All right, tell us what you've seen today.

GONYEA: OK, so I did actually see kind of the real part of the parade, an actual parade, which was about a block and a half long. After the visit to Arlington Cemetery by the new president, vice president and former presidents, they had a military escort back over here to 15th Street, right around the corner from the White House, and then made the quick turn on to Pennsylvania Avenue. And we had military fife and drum corps. We had all kinds of ceremonial military escorts in formation. We did have two spectacular drum lines, the University of Delaware marching band drum line - that's President Biden's alma mater - and from Washington, D.C., the Howard University drum line. So they both...

SHAPIRO: Kamala Harris's alma mater.

GONYEA: Kamala Harris's alma mater. Absolutely. So they escorted their respective alums. Along Pennsylvania Avenue, the president and the vice president each walked that block from Treasury to the White House. And, Ari, then they made the turn, and they entered the White House complex through that northwest gate, the one we would always use as reporters going there...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

GONYEA: ...Walked up the long driveway, and then just as the president and first lady got toward the front of the mansion, a military brass ensemble played "Hail To The Chief" to welcome him to the White House and in they went, into the front door.

SHAPIRO: A short walk but powerful symbolism. Speaking of symbolism, tell us about that visit to Arlington National Cemetery that you mentioned...

GONYEA: You know...

SHAPIRO: ...The new president, vice president and some of his predecessors made together.

GONYEA: That's right. Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, with their first ladies, were all there. It was a bipartisan show at, you know, one of the most somber and powerful places in all of America, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A wreath was laid. A bugler played "Taps." It was brief. It was 20 minutes. But it really did stand out, a powerful moment in this very atypical day.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Don Gonyea on this Inauguration Day, speaking with us from in front of the White House.

Good to talk to you, Don.

GONYEA: And to you. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.