Celebs Unite As ‘One’ For A Pre-Inauguration Concert


On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, dignitaries, politicians, celebrities and everyday citizens convened on the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC yesterday to participate in the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration to celebrate not only tomorrow’s Inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President but to also honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, very famously, gave his I Have A Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial back in August of 1963. Here are a few photos from yesterday’s We Are One concert event and some info about what went down:

Barack Obama and his family had a star-studded – and musical – introduction to Washington, D.C. On Sunday afternoon, the President-elect was feted on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration. The two-hour event was broadcast live on an open signal on HBO, and it featured a mix of historical speeches, presented by stars like Tom Hanks, and classic anthems like U2’s surging Martin Luther King, Jr.-inspired “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Equally powerful, Beyoncé closed out the festivities with a stately, soaring version of “America the Beautiful.” The singer beckoned all the earlier performers on stage, leading a star-studded sing-along. Said Beyoncé as she concluded, “America, we are one.” Denzel Washington kicked the festivities off with an introduction, telling the crowd, “We are inspired by the man we’ve elected to be the 44th president.” Then, the actor ceded the stage to Bruce Springsteen and a full gospel choir in red robes. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, the troubadour performed “The Rising” – and delivered a message of unity. “Come on up for the rising,” he sang. “Come on up, lay your hands in mine.” As he performed, the cameras panned to the awe-inspiring sight of thousands of spectators huddled in the cold, packed around the Reflecting Pool and stretched all the way east to the Washington Monument. Much closer to the action, Obama and his family – including wife Michelle and their daughters Malia, 10, who snapped photos of the massive crowd, and Sasha, 7 – took in the festivities from a front-row perch, in a box just off the stage, next to Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. Obama also took the stage to thank performers and audience members for sharing in the celebration. “Welcome to Washington, and welcome to this celebration of American renewal,” he said. “As I stand here tonight, what gives me the greatest hope . . . 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.” Mary J. Blige got concert-goers dancing – even Obama, who grooved in his seat – during her soulful version of “Lean on Me.” And Jamie Foxx inspired plenty of laughter – including a chuckling Obama – with his pitch-perfect impression of the President-elect as he recited lines from Obama’s post-election victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. Sheryl Crow teamed up with jazz legend Herbie Hancock and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas for a spirited take on Bob Marley’s “One Love.” “Let’s get together and feel all right,” they sang while audience members frantically waved their hands in the air. Later, during his performance, Garth Brooks sang his Obama-inspired original composition, “We Shall Be Free,” which the country star melded into a medley of recognizable favorites like “American Pie” and “Shout.” And Usher took the stage with Shakira and Stevie Wonder for the soul luminary’s “Higher Ground.”

I was able to watch a small portion of yesterday’s celebration and it was quite a sight to see … the party was jumpin’ and it’s only the beginning. Our President-elect was deffo in fine spirits at yesterday’s event as he spoke to the assembled crowd about how hopeful he is for our country on the eve of such a monumental achievement:

Barack Obama said he’s “as hopeful as ever” about the future of the U.S. as thousands of Americans converged on Washington’s Lincoln Memorial for a free concert to celebrate his inauguration as the first black president. “Only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now,” Obama said today. “Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead, I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that it will prevail, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.” People gathered hours in advance for the event at the same site chosen by civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The concert featured songs by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, U2 and Mary J. Blige; Martin Luther King III spoke, along with actors including Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks. Obama sang along as Garth Brooks performed “American Pie.” He and his wife, Michelle, rocked along to Blige and jumped to their feet as Wonder sang and played the keyboard. Interspersed in the event were clips of past presidents, including the inaugural addresses by John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Obama and his wife followed incoming Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, down the steps of the memorial and waved to crowds that stretched down the National Mall to the Washington Monument before the concert. They took seats to the side of the stage with the Obama children, Sasha and Malia. “Change has come to America,” actor Jamie Foxx told the roaring crowd, quoting Obama and doing an impression of him that drew laughter from attendees and the president-elect himself. Biden spoke about 40 minutes into the program about the value of work, saying it was about dignity and respect. “I see a country built by men and women who believe in the dignity of work, who take pride in providing for their families,” Biden told the crowd. Obama, 47, for the second day chose to invoke the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the president who led the U.S. through the Civil War and ended slavery. Obama arrived in Washington last night after a “whistlestop” train trip that began in Philadelphia; Lincoln arrived by railroad in 1861 for his own inauguration. Both were elected from their adopted home state of Illinois.

Click HERE to read the full text of Barack Obama’s speech yesterday, in case you missed hearing it aloud. After the jump, watch Beyoncé‘s stirring performance of America the Beautiful, she really nailed the song and gave a performance that is not to be missed …

There is so much national pride all over the place right now, you can absolutely feel the electricity of change in the air. We are literally on the eve of a brand new day for the US. After tomorrow, nothing will ever be the same … we’ll have crossed a barrier that seemed absolutely impassable just a short while ago. It’s a great time to be an American. Woot!

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  • Ashley H

    srsly though, obama is such a good looking man.. I feel perverted when I say that!! haha

  • nicole

    dont feel perverted ashley lol…..he IS a good looking man & many women will agree with you =)

  • Camille

    Beyonce’s such a great performer… And she must have been so proud to sing on this wonderful occasion.
    I’m French but Obama means so much, not just to America, but to the whole world…

  • PITNBer

    Beyonce will be singing for the couple’s first (Inaugural) dance too. That’s a pretty amazing gig! In the grand scheme of things.

  • xerx

    I loved Beyonce’s performance. It looked like Tom Hanks was about to cry, so cute ;)

    Only low point: her coat. Yuck!

  • lexi

    i wonder what the carbon footprint of this concert was…….

  • lo

    Ashley and Nicole — I’m there with you! I have a lil bit of a crush on our new prez… hot, intelligent, thoughtful, principled… what more could you ask for??

  • Anemic

    I couldn’t concentrate on Beyonce’s performance because that outfit was distracting me – soooooooooo HORRIBLE.

  • Katie

    I was there :-D

    It was an amazing show to see live and Obamas speech was so moving.

    Besides the BITING cold- it was a great time.

  • Paz

    I wish they could have some people speak some words who weren’t celebrities…I mean, Jack Black? Seriously? What about Maya Angelou? Or a Nobel Peace Prize winner?
    Poor Sasha looks bored.

    • @Paz — this particular celebration was geared for the HBO viewing audience, the real dignitaries will be speaking tomorrow.

  • Amber

    the video of Beyonce’ has been removed

  • Joanne

    Trent – I heard the gay pastor chosen to speak was not shown on TV – is that true?

    • @Joanne — HBO claims they “accidentally” cut out his prayer, sounds shady to me

  • Joanne

    Usually I’m not a fan of this (over the top) level of patriotism (because it masks reality) – but I guess after 8 years of living under the Bush regime, America has earned the right to be shmoltzy! … for a time.

  • Patricia

    Does anyone know the designer of Jill Biden’s fabulous red scarf worn at the We Are One concert?
    A million thanks!