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Concert kicks off inaugural celebration in D.C.

Jenn Metz | Monday, January 19, 2009

WASHINGTON – Some of the biggest names in music, television and film performed live in a free concert on the National Mall in front of hundreds of thousands Sunday, but the loudest applause went to President-elect Barack Obama.

Supporters flocked to the Lincoln Memorial to witness “We Are One,” a concert to kick off a three-day celebration leading up to Obama’s historic inauguration Tuesday. The program was part history lesson with film montages of past presidents and other important figures from our nation’s past and part musical extravaganza, with over 30 performers.

“We Are One” paid tribute to past presidents, the military, members of the Civil Rights Movement and everyday, working-class Americans, and provided the president-elect a platform to speak to the public about his upcoming term in the White House.

Both the president-elect and Vice President-elect Joe Biden spoke during the concert.

Obama’s short speech near the close of the program offered the audience hopeful words about his presidency, as well as realistic expectations for a timeline for the solution of America’s current problems.

“Only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now,” he told the crowd that erupted in cheers when he took the stage.

“Our nation is at war, our economy is in crisis,” Obama began, naming America’s unemployment rate and fiscal uncertainties as some of the several challenges he will face in the early days of his presidency.

“I won’t pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our resolve as a nation,” he said.

In spite of these problems, Obama remains “as hopeful as ever” that our nation will overcome the challenges that face it and prosper.

The president-elect sat with his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, Malia and Sasha. He danced and sang along to performances by popular artists, including U2, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder.

Before the concert began at 2:30 p.m., event staff closed off the viewing area near the Lincoln Memorial. Jumbotrons set up around the Washington Monument and at other locations on the National Mall provided additional viewing opportunities.

A sea of those bundled to face the cold remained standing for the two-hour concert, waving American flags and sporting everything Barack Obama – readily available from street vendors – from winter hats to T-shirts.

Concert highlights included Brooks’ three-song set featuring sing-a-long favorites “American Pie” and “Shout.”

Artists collaborated on certain acts like the high-energy “Higher Ground,” performed by Stevie Wonder, Usher and Shakira.

Speakers, like actors Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Jamie Foxx, golf superstar Tiger Woods and Martin Luther King III, quoted famous lines from former presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.

Patriotic songs “This Land is Your Land,” led by Springsteen and Pete Seeger and “America the Beautiful,” performed by Beyoncé, closed the program. All program participants, including members of various choirs, joined the chart-topping artist on stage.

“We Are One” was broadcast live and free on HBO, with two repeat showings airing later Sunday evening.