Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Are One

Well, today was one we will not soon forget.

We attended "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial.

We listened to speakers:
Jack Black
Steve Carell
Rosario Dawson
Jamie Foxx
Tom Hanks
Samuel L. Jackson
Ashley Judd
Martin Luther King III
Queen Latifah
Laura Linney
George Lopez
Kal Penn
Marisa Tomei
Denzel Washington
Forest Whitaker
Tiger Woods

And heard performers:

Bruce Springsteen
Mary J. Blige
Jon Bon Jovi with Bettye Lavette
James Taylor with John Legend and Jennifer Nettle
John Mellencamp
Josh Groban and Heather Headley with Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow
Renee Fleming
Garth Brooks
Stevie Wonder with Usher and Shakira
Pete Seeger (at a young 89 years!)

We left our hotel at 10 a.m. and got to the National Mall around 11 a.m. We walked from the Smithsonian Castle past the Washington Monument and to the World War II Memorial. Everyone was required to go through a check point to have bags checked.

We entered the Reflecting Pool area among an estimated 400,000 people and 30 degree weather. The celebration event did not begin until 2:30 so we had some time to sit on the ground and enjoy all of our neighbors.

The event was filmed live for HBO so it began with the familiar HBO theme music and static television screen. And the show was on!

Bruce Springsteen sang "The Rising" after Denzel Washington opened the event saying the day would "speak to the future of America."

Listening to Tom Hanks speak of Abraham Lincoln was a moving moment. Tiger Woods also did a great job speaking about our military and his father who served in the special forces.

U2 performed their Martin Luther King Jr. tribute "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and then "City of Brilliant Lights." Bono was visibly proud to be there and acknowledged Obama at one point when the other performers seemed to follow script. Bono shouted "let freedom ring!" and told Obama that it's an honor for "four boys from Dublin" to sing for him.

Garth Brooks, joined by a choir, performed parts of Don McLean's "American Pie," the Isley Brothers' "Shout," when he got the whole crowd jumping and waving their hands. He finished with "We Shall Be Free."

John Mellencamp sang "Pink Houses" and its refrain of "ain't that America" along with another choir.

The afternoon's next-to-last moment featured Springsteen, and 89-year-old folk legend Pete Seeger singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Seeger raised his hands and urged the crowd to sing along, which everyone certainly did. When the song was over Seeger jogged off with his banjo - what spirit!

Beyonce closed singing "America the Beautiful," and most of the performers and speakers joined her on stage.

The highlight of the day was of course hearing our next President, Barack Obama, speak to the masses for about five minutes.

From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Obama said:

And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.

He spoke to all of us:

And yet, as I stand here today, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you — Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.

He spoke to my family and my children:

you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office — the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans — that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.

He closed:

There is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now.

There is no doubt that our road will be long. That our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today.

One final note, two Chattanooga boys were represeting, Usher and Samuel L. Jackson!

We took our time going back to the Metro station, walking with a sea of humanity down Constitution Avenue. We took a detour into the Smithsonian Museum of American History get warm and take a break. The museum closed at 5:30 so we did not get to spend much time inside.

We had to wait in line to board the Metro at the Federal Triangle station, but it was not that bad.

What another great day.

Picture below is from USA Today of the Obamas greeting the crowd.

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