“Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side,” he sang. “You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.”
Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land” over the past few years. “But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said.
Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis.
John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honor of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles.
A starry collection of Broadway’s most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial.
The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to — what else? — “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry