"It's been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come," sang Sam Cooke, back in the early 60s. Sam was talking about a change for oppressed black Americans, and Sunday in Washington, you could feel that change had arrived. I stood on the National Mall with hundreds of thousands Sunday watching "We Are One," a pre-inaugural concert welcoming Obama, performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. President Obama was there along with Vice President Biden, their families, and visitors from all over the world, filling the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.
Here's my video segment on the concert- merchants, travelers, and performers galore!
The concert was full of cameos from the stars: Tom Hanks, Denzel, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashley Judd, Forest Whitaker, Jamie Foxx and scores of others appeared. Sometimes, the lesser-known celebrities seemed to have been chosen specifically for their racial identity, such as Indian-American actor Kal Penn of the "Harold & Kumar" movies, or Latino comedian George Lopez. Each read the words of famous presidents and contributors to the civil rights movement. Samuel L. Jackson did a lovely reading of Rosa Parks' words on her historic protest. Tom Hanks on the other hand seemed off reading Lincoln's words, while a symphony played in the background. Jamie Foxx pulled off a fun and yet stirring imitation of Obama reading his election night speech, capturing Obama's cadence and tone just right.
Along with movie stars was an incredible musical line-up: Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and to top it off, Pete Seeger, singing this Land is your Land with Bruce and James at his sides. Seeger had on a knit green and red winter cap that made him look like everybody's favorite granddad. He seemed to be having the time of his life, and he even jogged off stage at the end!
Of all the performers, though, Garth Brooks got the crowd the most rollicking, leading a Gospel choir through a gutsy "American Pie" and a rousing "Shout." Brooks was about the only one that made it feel like a real party.
In the end, none of them though could top the crowd's reaction to Obama: every time the camera flashed to him bopping his head to the music, singing along with the lyrics, or flashing that perfect ear-to-ear white-toothed magical grin, you could hear the crowd swooning.
The excitement about our new president is electric right now. However, it'd be short-sighted to see this energy as being just about having a black president, or even a Democrat: from what I have heard from everyone I talk to, this victory is slaking a thirst in this country to believe in our leaders again.
I remember the day Bush v. Gore was decided, and I felt that day like I had lost my faith in politics. I'm not sure what Obama will do to heal the economy and this country, but I believe with others that he will honor his office and the country that entrusted him with it. That alone gives me hope, and from the energy in the crowd today, I know I'm not alone.
Here's my video! Merchants, kids, travelers from around the world!
All the best, Dan