WASHINGTON (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — William Walker, the first Black House sergeant-at-arms, was the one to announce the arrival of President Joe Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday as the president gave his first joint address to Congress.
Walker happens to be from Chicago’s South Side.
He attended St. Sabina for elementary school then Leo Catholic High School, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his master’s degree from Chicago State University.
Before his swearing-in on Monday, Walker was the D.C. National Guard Major General. He was serving in that role at the time of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
“Throughout his long, dedicated career in public service, General William Walker has proven to be a leader of great integrity and experience who will bring his steady and patriotic leadership to this vital role,” Speaker Pelosi said in a news release announcing Walker’s appointment in March. “His historic appointment as the first Black American to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms is an important step forward for this institution and our nation. General Walker has 39 years of decorated military experience, including as current Commanding General of the DC National Guard.”
Pelosi continued in the March release: “We are especially proud of his long-time career as a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, where he served in roles from Special Agent to Deputy Administrator SES-4. His experience will be an important asset to the House, particularly in light of the January 6 insurrection. It is essential that we work to strengthen our institution and keep our Capitol community, and all who visit, safe.”
In his speech, President Biden delivered a hopeful message with focuses that included jobs, infrastructure, police reform, gun control, and ending cancer. He touted his recovery plans and even more ambitious proposals.
“It’s good to be back,” the former senator told his former colleagues, although the eerily quiet House Chamber had an audience of just 200, compared to the normally boisterous 1,600 who usually attend this address – COVID-19 forced the smaller guest list.
Mr. Biden pushed forward with the message that “In America, we always get up” though “100 days ago, America was on fire.” He highlighted the vaccination rate; the American Recovery Plan, the nearly $2 trillion stimulus plan; his infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, and his latest bold proposal, the American Families Plan.
He argued for another $4 trillion in spending on top of the COVID relief bill that’s already been passed and asked for GOP input, up to a point.
In addition to plans to “build America back better,” Mr. Biden extended a handful of olive branches: calling for a cure for cancer, universal pre-k and more limited provisions on gun control.
Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass the police reform bill by the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, as well as to move forward with voting rights legislation. He also pushed his immigration and gun control bills.
He also had the opportunity to tout a first: He was flanked by two women on the dais, House Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.