President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office
President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock)

Biden Administration Already Hard at Work Enacting Numerous Beneficial Policies; Amanda Gorman is America’s New Superstar Poet; and More

President Joe Biden sworn in and new administration already hard at work.

Just hours after his emotional, star-studded and highly protected inauguration took place on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden is already working on fulfilling campaign promises and undoing some of the most egregious acts carried out by his predecessor.

Our 46th President took the traditional walk from the Capitol to his new home in the White House, saying he “couldn’t wait to get to work.” And once there, he kept that promise, signing more than a dozen different executive actions that he considered most important and most vital for helping the country to create a fresh start.

The executive orders President Biden signed included:

  • An agreement to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, a key environmental policy in which more than 200 countries from around the globe have committed to keeping average global temperatures from rising by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (and preferably less than 1.5 degrees Celsius) in the next 70 years. Another act that was signed also centered around the environment, and revoking permits for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, calling for an end in oil and gas leasing in protected arctic areas, and pledging renewed protection and restoration for national parks and monuments.
  • A mandate stating that masks that prevent COVID-19 transmission must now be worn on all federal properties across the country. Biden has said he wants all American citizens to mask up for at least the next 100 days to try and slow the out-of-control spread of the killer virus. He also reversed Trump’s decision to leave the World Health Organization and asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to represent the country in a meeting the group is planning to have today on the pandemic. Another order requiring masks on all U.S. flights is expected today.
  • An order to further prevent and combat federal discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The order begins with the line “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love” and orders all federal agencies to look for and eliminate any laws or regulations within their departments that may be discriminatory.
  • An end to the Federal “emergency” act that allowed defense department spending to be used on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
  • An order to repeal Trump’s restrictions on travel from several Muslim-majority countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Yemen.
  • A renewed examination at Census counting that was performed during the previous administration, to ensure all citizens were fairly counted and future House of Representative apportionments are conducted accurately.

The lengthy list of orders also enacted within the last 24 hours includes a massive immigration reform program; a demand that federal workers must find a way to rejoin all parents and children who were forcibly separated at the border by the Trump administration; protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protected children who immigrated to the U.S. from deportation; a freeze on COVID-related evictions and student loan repayment; new ethics guidelines for federal employees and much more.

 

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

Amanda Gorman is America’s new superstar poet.

With all the historic firsts that came out of the Biden inauguration, another surprise story arose as well: the breakout, internet-shattering and instant success of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. Wearing a now iconic bright yellow Prada jacket with her hair up in a red headband, the 22-year-old self-described “wordsmith” and “change-maker” recited a poem titled “The Hill We Climb” that many said perfectly captured the mood and feeling of the nation, calling for unity and togetherness after four dark years of despair.

“When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” she wrote as part of the 723-word inaugural poem. Another key line — “While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated” — related specifically to the Trump-backed and failed insurrection attempt on the Capitol. As the poem concluded, Gorman described America as “not broken but simply unfinished.”

In her poem, Gorman described herself as “a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother [who] can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one” — the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden saw a video of Gorman in a reading she gave at the Library of Congress and suggested she share a poem at the inauguration. The resulting recitation was ultimately considered one of the highlights of the ceremony. Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and former President Barack Obama among many others praised Gorman for her words and acknowledged her creative prowess. The Wall Street Journal called her appearance a star turn and also noted that on inauguration day, Gorman was gaining Twitter followers faster than even the new President was.

In a lengthy profile, Esquire noted that like President Biden, Gorman struggled with a speech impediment as a child. But she worked hard to overcome it, going on to hone her poetry skills in L.A.’s nonprofit WriteGirl program, winning her Youth Poet Laureate title at the age of 16 and going on to study sociology at Harvard University.

Citing inspirations that range from Maya Angelou to Abraham Lincoln and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Gorman is also soon to be a best-selling author. She has two books scheduled for publication on Sept. 21 (Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem and The Hill We Climb: Poems) and CNN has reported that both publications are already on the best-sellers lists at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY! Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: “For words alone are certain good: Sing, then,” she tweeted Wednesday evening as the books began soaring up the charts.

 

Majority of White House officials now working from home.

In another break with the previous Trump administration, many lower-level White House officials are now being told to work from home and have been provided government-issued phones and laptops — a move Biden’s team hopes will serve as a continuing model of how businesses in the U.S. should be carrying on while the pandemic rages.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak has reported that “according to an administration official, only ‘continuity of operations’ staff will be allowed to work inside the building,” which includes national security officials and individuals who need access to top-secret materials.

In a press briefing — another vital part of government business that had gone awry during the Trump administration and has now been resurrected — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that all White House employees entering the building would be required to undergo a COVID-19 test, wear an N95 mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines. “Plexiglass barriers were also mounted on desks in the West Wing, something Trump officials had resisted,” Liptak reported.

 

D.I. Fast Facts

900,000

Number of people filing first-time unemployment claims this week. Layoffs triggering unemployment have exceeded 750,000 since the summer of 2020 after the COVID-19 crisis began last spring.
NBC News

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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