On Sunday, a half-a-million people turned out on the National Mall for a star-studded two-hour inaugural event that featured actors Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks and many more. There were special performances by Stevie Wonder, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Mary J. Blige and others. Barack Obama was the highlight of the day. He spoke at the climax of the two-hour event. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: It’s January 20th, 2009. We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C., on this historic day, just across from the Capitol, where Barack Hussein Obama will take his oath of office today to become the forty-fourth president of the United States, the first African American president in US history.
A record number of people are turning out in the National Mall to watch Obama’s inaugural address. D.C. police have projected crowds of around two million. Thousands of charter buses have come in from around the country. Subway trains are packed. Lines are around blocks, simply to get into the subways. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper. Dozens of balls and events have been held across the city in the lead-up to the inauguration of Barack Obama.
On Saturday, the President-elect retraced the route of Abraham Lincoln on his way to the inauguration in a historic train ride which began in Philadelphia. The Obama family then rode the vintage Amtrak train to Wilmington, where they picked up the Bidens, and then on to Baltimore. When Abraham Lincoln took this ride, he quietly slipped through Baltimore at an unscheduled early hour because of death threats in the secessionist state of Maryland. Obama and Biden spoke in Baltimore to a capacity crowd of tens of thousands of people and then rode on to Union Station, not far from where we are right now. It was actually Michelle Obama’s forty-fifth birthday.
Well, one of the biggest events was a free inauguration celebration and concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. It came on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, the day that is the federal holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday. He would have been eighty years old. Half-a-million people turned out on the National Mall for the star-studded two-hour event that featured Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks, and many more, with many special performances by, among others, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger, Bono and U2, and many others.
Barack Obama was the highlight of the day. He spoke at the climax of the two-hour event.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: 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. What gives me hope is what I see when I look out across this Mall, for in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith, a faith that anything is possible in America.
Rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an empire, all for the sake of an idea. On the ground below is a tribute to a generation that withstood war and oppression, men and women like my grandparents, who toiled on bomber assembly lines and marched across Europe to free the world from tyranny’s grasp. Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content. And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.
And yet, as I stand here today, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us, but what fills the spaces in between. It 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.
It’s the same thing that gave me hope from the day we began this campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago: a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another, bring everybody together — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Latino, Asian and Native American, black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not — that not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearn for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.
This is what I believed. But you made this belief real. 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 when 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 of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.
It is this thread that binds us together in common effort, that runs through every memorial on this Mall, that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before. It is how this nation has overcome the greatest differences and the longest odds, because there is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.
That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now. There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep, but never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard.
I ask you to help reveal that character once more, and together we can carry forward, as one nation and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today. Thank you, America. God bless you.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Barack Obama standing at the foot of the Jefferson Memorial. Vice President-elect Joe Biden also spoke at Sunday’s pre-inaugural concert. That was, rather, the Lincoln Memorial. He also spoke right there.