According to the written (and unwritten) rules of journalism, press, and media, journalism should be based on facts only. Journalist should not include their own biased opinions in their report. I reported on the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, but there was a moment in the series of events that I did not include in my report. I consciously did not write about it because I knew what I saw had to be written together with my opinion. Because what happened is what I believe to be instructive.
The Lesson — Respectful Behavior
On Jan. 20, 2021, the day of the presidential inauguration, former President Trump abandoned a tradition, while former Vice-President Pence continued a very important one. What did not happen is a standard and “familiar” tradition to past inauguration ceremonies. To the best of my knowledge, it is custom for the outgoing president and the first lady to invite the new president and first lady to the White House for lunch or tea and a tour.
A tradition where the former president – in a nonofficial circumstance – hands over the White House to the new president before the inauguration ceremony. The two couples also traditionally attend an inauguration luncheon held at the Capitol, but that was called off this year due to the Coronavirus. When Trump was inaugurated, former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited the newly elected president and his wife Melania Trump to the White House for tea.
The tradition was also upheld when former President George W. Bush left office. The former president and his wife left the White House after such events. Although the meeting of the former and newly-elected presidents is not required, it is a tradition. Others don’t attend the event — not the press or the public. It’s a private meeting between the two couples. On the morning of the inauguration, former President Trump and his wife were taken to the airport by helicopter, from where they immediately traveled to Florida. (I note, the trip was not to the couples’ apartment, but Trump’s favorite golf course.)
Trump and his wife refused to meet newly-elected President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, and there was no traditional tour or farewell between the two presidential couples. However, something traditional did happen. Unlike former President Trump, former Vice-President Pence did attend the inauguration ceremony. Once it was over, the newly inaugurated Vice-President Kamala Harris, and her husband — the first “second gentlemen” — Doug Emhoff, accompanied the departing Pence couple to their car.
Under normal circumstances, this might not need reporting on, as it is a traditional act of protocol for the former and newly-elected vice-presidents. But it seems a friendly conversation also accompanied this act of tradition. Although I only followed the events through images broadcasted on television, it was visible that Vice-President Harris and her husband had what appears to be a civil and kind conversation with former Vice-Presiden Pence and his wife Karen Pence before they said their goodbyes. Afterward, the new vice-president stood on the Capitol’s stairs until the former vice- president’s car left the area.
In a normal world, this would not be news. This is normally a practiced occurrence in American history. But, in an anomalous world, this must be noticed. It should be mentioned. From this encounter, one is shown the importance of democracy, politeness, peaceful coexistence, and respect.
A lesson former President Trump could learn from former Vice-President Pence.