President Joe Biden, after being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States yesterday, has immediately gone to work, signing 27 executive orders on a myriad of topics yesterday and today. The executive orders range from immediate action from what Mr. Biden can do, on the COVID-19 pandemic, undoing many actions by his predecessor, Donald Trump, during his presidency, and setting precedents by the United States to establish themselves as players in international policy once again.
The first executive order signed by Mr. Biden, who made clear its symbolism, mandated masks and social distancing on federal properties, which is a break in Mr. Trump’s approach to dealing with the pandemic.
At a White House event Thursday, Mr. Biden was blunt. “Things will get worse before they get better,” adding that the televised memorial at the Washington Monument on Tuesday which marked the grim milestone of 400,000 Americans dying from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, won’t be the last.
But, to a nation who had been told everything was fine and was fed sugar coated, misleading information by the previous administration, this honesty was refreshing.
“I’m so happy to finally have transparency and the beginnings of a cohesive coronavirus plan coming from the federal government,” said Ms. Brown, who teaches health at the iSchool. “I am really glad President Biden has formed an advisory board for (dealing with) COVID-19 comprised of scientists, doctors, and top public health professionals. It will make a big difference in how states are advised to handle COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies along with a massive public vaccination plan,” she added.
In addition to new executive orders and new focuses in his first two days, Mr. Biden, with pen to paper, moved to dismantle many staple projects of Mr. Trump’s legacy. Such undoings include the ending of construction on Mr. Trump’s border wall on the Southern border, the ending of Mr. Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries, and joining back into the Paris Climate Agreement, one of many moves that showcased Mr. Biden’s willingness to address climate change head on, and making a cleaner planet at the same time.
“I’m very excited! I think we need to take major action to address climate change issues, and we need to implement those actions quickly,” said Ms. Klimowicz, a science teacher at the iSchool. “So having clear goals, like creating a zero emissions economy by 2050 will hopefully help ensure that as a country, we can do our part to start to minimize the damage to our planet.”
Mr. Biden also ended construction of the Keystone pipeline, which carried corrosive tar sand oil from Texas all the way up to Alberta, Canada, which many people at the iSchool were excited about hearing.
“I think killing (the pipeline’s construction) is fantastic and I hope he continues by shutting down all existing and future pipeline projects as well as other fossil fuel infrastructure projects,” said Mr. Mulroy, who teaches science with a focus on climate change at the iSchool. “Rejoining the Paris accord is largely symbolic, but to the extent that gestures matter it is important. I would love to see him (implement) a federal jobs guarantee program building renewable energy infrastructure across the entire country,” he added, saying he hopes that this is the beginning of many other legislations combating climate change by the new president.
Mr. Biden has yet to veto or approve any major legislation, but the changes felt in his first two days in office were immediate and noticeable.
For one, new White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who worked in the Obama administration, treated the press fairly during her first official press briefing and didn’t attack any reporters for doing their jobs. Ms. Psaki also said that she works for Biden, who works for the American people, so therefore she also works for the American people. “I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play,” she said when addressing the media. “There will be moments when we disagree, but we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”
Doubling down on the narrative of truthfulness and honesty, Ms. Psaki promised she wouldn’t beat around the bush when addressing news that might be bleak or hard to hear. “(Biden’s) objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to the government and to share the truth even when it’s hard to hear,” she said, “and that’s what I hope to do.”
Secondly, America’s favorite doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will also be addressing the American people more often, coming after a months-long span where Fauci rarely ever appeared in press conferences with Mr. Trump. “You’re going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again, not from the president, but from the real genuine experts and scientists,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday.
At a White House briefing with Ms. Psaki, Dr. Fauci said the responsibility given to him by Mr. Biden has been somewhat of a “liberating feeling” and praised Mr. Biden for “letting the science speak.”
Another feeling that many Americans have felt is finally a president’s cabinet isn’t based on favoritism or cronyism but based on merit. “Biden has brought in people with many years of experience in government and the fields in which they are serving. He has even made his science advisor a cabinet level position,” said Mr. Jay, a politics teacher at the iSchool. Biden’s picks for cabinet positions are all rooted in experience in specific fields and their expertise at handling crises facing each individual field.
Despite the flurry of momentum, there is still a lot of work to be done, including the rollout of an equitable public vaccination program, ambitious climate reform promised by Biden and hopefully some of what the iSchool’s science department touched on, and desperately needed racial and criminal justice reform, in addition to helping rebuild a struggling economy.