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Washington this week is a little bit like the Oscars, Black History month and the Presidential inauguration all rolled into one. Virtually every hotel inside the Beltway is being used for a party (or two or three or four) and celebrities — from the smartest of the bunch to the ones who assuredly don’t even know where their polling place is — are everywhere.
The "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday was a true test of egos. The high-octane event, a tribute to President-elect Barack Obama, brought together some of the world's biggest musical performers and celebrities, including Bono, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, opera star Renee Fleming and James Taylor, who set aside their stardom to share the stage under the marbled gaze of Abraham Lincoln, before a crowd of more than 400,000.
Obama, whose star wattage outshone all of the other boldfaced names, descended the steps of the memorial with his wife Michelle, before taking his place inside a bullet-proof enclosure on the side of the stage with daughters Malia and Sasha and incoming Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill and their family members. The President-elect sang along with Garth Brooks performing "American Pie," and mouthed the words of "This Land is Your Land," played by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger. The whole family danced to Stevie Wonder, Usher and Shakira's rendition of "Higher Ground."
At one point, the concert seemed to be a blend of a Hollywood awards show and history class on civil rights. Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Ashley Judd, Queen Latifah and Laura Linney all read from speeches or cited the achievements of past presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and, in a bipartisan nod, even Ronald Reagan, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. There were a few lighter moments, such as when Jamie Foxx did a dead-on impersonation of Obama delivering his speech on Election Night and an over-the-top grab at patriotism with the display of two live bald eagles named Challenger and Mr. Lincoln.
But Obama lent a sobering touch to the festivities. "Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes; they’re worried about how they'll afford college for their kids or pay the stack of bills on their kitchen table. And most of all, they are anxious and uncertain about the future—about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what’s best about this country to our children and their children," he said. "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 our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did."