Yesterday, the country got to watch Joe Biden be sworn-in as the new President of the United States, taking over from Trump, who left for Florida instead of attending the inauguration ceremony (bye!).
In addition to the swearing-in, the Biden team set up two other celebrations meant to honor the American people, commemorate the inauguration, and showcase the diverse lands of our nation. The first was “Parade Across America,” which featured shout-outs from people and organizations from around the country. The second was “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute special that brought together a mix of A-list celebrities and average Americans hosted by actor Tom Hanks. The special featured both prerecorded segments and live performances, as well as speeches by both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here are the top moments from last night’s “Celebrating America:”
Former Presidents Have A Kiki
One of the more serious moments during the special was when three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — got together at Arlington National Cemetery to talk about the history of inaugurations and bringing people together.
“I think the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country,” said Bush in the video.
Obama agreed, also noting that leaders need to listen to the whole of the country — not just their parties — in order to create a unified nation, building on Biden’s talk of unity from his inauguration speech.
“We’ve got to not just listen to folks we agree with, but listen to folks we don’t,” Obama said. “And one of my fondest memories of the inauguration was the grace and generosity that President Bush showed me and Laura Bush showed Michelle, and it was a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity. And that as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us.”
Broadway Sings For Biden
A number of Broadway stars and performers got together to sing their praise for the country and the new president with renditions of “Seasons of Love” from Rent and “Let the Sunshine In” from Hair. There was an alarming number of people in the (virtually-filmed) video, including Seth Rudetsky, Anthony Rapps, Chandra Wilson, Peppermint, Vanessa Williams, Wayne Brady, Rosie Perez, Chita Rivera, and Audra McDonald. Watch the performances below!
Demi Lovato’s Song Unites The Country
While there were a number of songs performed on the TV special, Demi Lovato’s was among the most memorable. The singer took the (virtual) stage in a beige suit and a pink pixie cut (queer girl chic, much?) to cover “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. As she sang, face from around the country — from stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda to healthcare and essential workers — were projected onto the screen behind her. At one point during the performance, the screen even cut to Biden holding grandson Beau while watching the special next to wife Dr. Jill Biden.
View this post on Instagram
Lin-Manuel Miranda Reads A Poem
Lin-Manual Miranda, who rose to fame for creating the Broadway musicals “Hamilton” and “In The Heights,” took the screen to perform one of Biden’s favorite poems. “The Cure at Troy” by Seamus Heaney is an adaptation of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes” published in 1991. Since then, Biden has been a fan of quoting the passage; he has done so during his presidential candidate acceptance speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention and at a memorial service for Sean Collier, a campus police officer who was killed during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Among the poem’s themes: the need for hope following difficult times.
Katy Perry Ends The Night With ‘Firework’s
Finally, the “Celebrating America” special came to a close as all great celebrations in our country do: with fireworks! Of course, an event as major as last night’s special couldn’t just have the normal fireworks. Instead, Katy Perry joined the finale to belt her hit “Firework” while a number of fireworks were set off to light up the sky over Washington, D.C. To America!
View this post on Instagram