Wednesday served as the dawn of a new era and new administration in the White House, as 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, was sworn into office after an election that caused a mass division among Americans.
After he took the oath of office, Biden called for unity in his inaugural address.
"This is democracy's day," he said. "A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We've learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed."
It was an unusual Inauguration Day, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Capitol was void of the typical crowds that watch the ceremony every four years. The event comes at a pivotal point in the country's history, as the political division among Americans is substantial. The political landscape is evidenced by a Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol, perpetrated by supporters of Donald Trump demanding that Congress overturn Electoral College votes.
"Today was a very different kind of inauguration for a country that is very different today than it has been," Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron said. "For me, today was a day of new beginnings and new hope for our future. What I'd like to see is a return to discussing issues, working together on solutions, and a country coming back together and being strong in unity, as it has in the past."
While policy arguments will persist at both the federal and state level, politicians, party heads, and citizens alike hope to see the country move forward in unison - or at least under a more cordial atmosphere among fellow Americans.
"I join the rest of the country in wishing the best for our new president and vice president, and look forward to a new and successful era," said Dell Barnes, Cherokee County Democratic Party vice chair. "Today is a day of hope, and a reminder of our responsibilities to democracy and progress."
Two days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kamala Harris became the first Black vice president, and also the first female veep. It was another of many firsts for the African-American community.
Josh Owen, Cherokee County Republican Party chair, called Harris' accomplishment an "incredible step" for the country. He's recently advocated for peaceful debates among elected officials, political pundits and American citizens, and said that while he doesn't have to agree with the policies of the new administration, he can still respect and recognize when great things happen for the country.
"That doesn't mean conservatives have to be quiet," he said. "It just means we have to use things within the Constitution and the means we have to fight against policies we don't agree with. We still have that voice to go against what the administration is doing. It just doesn't have to be violent or hateful."
Owen added that although he and other conservatives differ from the new administration's opinions, they are still praying for Biden and Harris to do well.
With the most recent election, Democrats took control of the White House and Congress. It's likely the Biden administration will take steps to undo some of Trump's initiatives. And while rules will still allow Republicans to hinder Biden's agenda, it will be easier for him and Democrats to tackle their to-do list.
State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, said he'd like to see policies and initiatives recently put in place to stay the same.
"I'd like to see them stay the course, which I know they're not going to do," he said. "I'd like to see them stay the course economically and not change a lot of the regulations. I don't want to see them give the Iranians back what we were able to pull away from them. I'd kind of like to keep our immigration policy strong on the southern border, which I think is good for the economy."
In a press release from Markwayne Mullin, OK-2, the congressman said the transition of power was not a smooth one, and some people still have concerns about the outcome of the election.
"We've weathered rocky transitions in the past and ultimately come together and grown as a nation, but it didn't happen overnight," he said. "It took time, hard work, and a dedication to our country. This transition is no exception. There is no challenge too great for Americans to overcome and I am confident we will band together. Today, we transferred power to a new president. Now, we must work together to move our country forward, just as we have throughout our history."
The Cherokee Nation has a long history of dealings with the federal government, and has increasingly worked with Congress to ensure representation for Native tribes. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., on behalf of the tribe, congratulated Biden and Harris.
"Today marks, as it does every four years, a sign of the renewal of, and the strength of, America," said Hoskin. "Cherokee Nation First Lady January Hoskin and our daughter Jasmine, watched the ceremonies this morning together, and we were moved by the experience. I hope all people across the country will do their part to bring about a spirit of unity in the country and to reject hate and violence. Let this also serve as a reminder that Cherokee Nation, and all of Indian Country, looks to the president of the United States, irrespective of party, to keep America's sacred promises to tribes. Cherokee Nation expects the new president, and all presidents, to keep the country's promises. I wish the Biden/Harris administration success and pledge to continue working with the government of the United States in the name of progress for the Cherokee people."