Former Federal Reserve chair Janet L. Yellen, his choice for treasury secretary, would also be the first woman to hold that post.
But as impressive as the historical nature of their nominations are the credentials that all of them bring to their jobs. Without exception, Biden has thus far named people who have deep experience both in the subject matter they will be dealing with and in the workings of government.
His designee to be ambassador to the United Nations, for instance, is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, an African American woman who grew up in segregated Louisiana, was the first in her family to graduate from high school and went on to a 35-year career in the Foreign Service that included an ambassadorship in Liberia and high-ranking positions in the State Department.
At 43, Jake Sullivan, whom Biden selected to be his national security adviser, will be the youngest person since the Kennedy administration to hold that position. But he operated at the top levels of foreign policy as a close adviser to Biden and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Obama administration.
The president-elect picked as his secretary of state Antony Blinken, a foreign policy veteran whose ties to Biden go back to Blinken’s days as staff director under Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Blinken has also worked in the White House and the State Department.
And with his selection of Ronald A. Klain as White House chief of staff, Biden tapped a longtime close adviser who has navigated with distinction through an array of top jobs at the White House, the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill.
The president-elect on Tuesday boasted that his administration will have “unmatched experience and accomplishments,” but will also bring fresh thinking and new perspectives.
It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast between Biden’s process and the way that President Trump went about this four years ago. The star of “Celebrity Apprentice” put together his administration like a casting call, favoring corporate chieftains, retired generals and characters who had caught his attention with their appearances on Fox News.
His initial secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was the first in modern history to come to the job with no experience in government. Trump fired Tillerson after a little more than a year on the job, notifying him of his ouster with a tweet.
Trump also made it clear that, to work for him, a candidate had to have a certain look and demeanor.
In announcing his pick of Mike Pence as his running mate, Trump said Pence’s record as Indiana governor was “the primary reason I wanted Mike, other than he looks very good, other than he’s got an incredible family, incredible wife and family.”
John Bolton’s bushy mustache was said to be one reason that Trump passed over the bombastic former U.N. ambassador in the initial round for secretary of state, though he overcame his misgivings about facial hair two years later and brought Bolton in as his third national security adviser. Bolton was gone, however, within 17 months.
Trump also enjoyed the spectacle of parading candidates for top posts before journalists and cameras in the lobby of Trump Tower, and in the case of critic and potential rival Mitt Romney, dangling the job of secretary of state just so he — and the media — could see Romney grovel for it over a dinner at a fancy New York restaurant.
It was not exactly a surprise that Trump’s four years in office would be marked by turbulence and turnover, leaving him in the end surrounded by a dead-ender cast of sycophants, Twitter trolls and family members, precious few of whom would ever be on anyone’s shortlist to join a normal administration.
The problems that Trump is leaving behind are formidable: a pandemic that has been mismanaged, a shaky economy and frayed relationships around the world.
While Biden’s team will surely make mistakes along the way, it is poised to be refreshingly competent, free of psychodrama and even perhaps a little boring. And maybe, at the end of it all, Americans will find reason once again to believe in government.