By Clark Xue
WASHINGTON, 1:00 a.m. — Tom Hanks’ invocation of Lincoln, Tiger Woods’ tribute to the military and Forest Whitaker’s appraisal of the American artist all drew polite applause in comparison to the wild cheers that met Jamie Foxx’s impression of President-elect Obama’s victory speech. Yet, this paled in comparison to the wild jubilation given to Obama himself.
Yesterday afternoon, 37 renowned celebrities, 12,000 portable restrooms, and an estimated 400,000 Americans from all over the country attended “We Are One,” the official opening ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.
The two-hour event, held at the Lincoln Memorial at the National Mall here in Washington, was broadcast live by HBO and included performers such as Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Black Eyed Peas. President-elect Obama, Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and their respective families were also in attendance, creating a cornucopia of stardom that drove the crowd into a frenzy and made the Washington cold a little more bearable.
Denzel Washington was the first celebrity to speak to the crowd, stressing the importance of unity. His speech was followed by Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising.” Other speakers included Martin Luther King III, Steve Carell (for some reason), Ashley Judd and Samuel L. Jackson.
But perhaps it was the music that attracted the throngs to the National Mall this morning. Among the performances were U2’s “City of Blinding Lights,” a song that lead singer Bono said Obama himself picked for the program, Mary J. Blige’s performance of “Lean on Me” and Pete Seeger’s rendition of “This Land is Your Land.”
Though a performance of monumental scale to organize, the Washington, D.C., Police Department, the National Guard and scores of volunteers from the Presidential Inauguration Committee guaranteed an incident free event. Blocks around the event area were limited to foot traffic only, and stringent security measures were required for all attendees.
The attendees were equally satisfied. Even those who were unable to get in told the News that they were happy to have been part of the history.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Renita Austin, a native of Obama’s hometown of Chicago. “I cannot describe how I feel, the change that he’s already been making; that he’s so imperative to making is amazing.”
“I just can’t wait — I’m so ready,” she said.
Those who were fortunate, or were able to wake up early enough, were even more thrilled about the inauguration.
“I’ve been in D.C. during the past many inaugurations,” said Madeline Johnson, a Washington resident. “It’s never been like this.”
It is safe to say that the excitement stirred up by the concert will set the tone for what is surely to be a historical inauguration. Presidential Inauguration Committee volunteers are currently preparing for the next inauguration event, “Renewing America Together,” a national call to service in which Obama and Biden will join regular Americans doing volunteer work to commemorate Rev. Martin Luther King.