At the “We Are One” concert, Barack Obama easily outclasses Bruce Springsteen.
My girlfriend insisted that we attend at least one big inaugural function in Washington, D.C. so we could witness history. Since I planned on being at work the day of the inauguration, that left the “We Are One” concert on the National Mall honoring President-elect Barack Obama and headlined by Bruce Springsteen. Thus, on early Sunday afternoon I was off to stand around in the cold, listen to an over-the-hill singer who hasn’t had a good album in two decades, surrounded by a big crowd of liberals. Seemed like the place to be.
On the way to the concert, I was struck by the number of street vendors selling Obama paraphernalia. Thinking I was being clever, I approached one who was selling t-shirts and asked, “Is that in the spirit of the day? I mean shouldn’t we be sharing, and about change, and giving them away?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “you wanna free shirt?”
Street vendor: 1, me: 0.
I tried to boost my pride as I walked away with my girlfriend by joking, “That’s why I like to see at a big lefty gathering, capitalism!”
My girlfriend: “Oh, shut up.”
Fortunately, my spirits recovered not long after we reached the concert. The crowd was massive, stretching all the way from the Lincoln Memorial, where the concert was staged, back to the Washington Monument. Thanks to JumboTrons just across the road from the World War II Memorial, the crowd not near the Lincoln Memorial could watch the festivities.
The organizers deserve credit. The concert was both joyous and serious, celebrating Obama’s victory and acknowledging the economic problems our nation faces. Best of all, the Obama people seem to have exerted control over the artists. No silly political outbursts from the musicians and the actors giving speeches stuck to their scripts. Perhaps the Obama people could direct the next Academy and Grammy Awards?
The one low point of the concert actually came during Springsteen’s appearance. Although huge applause greeted his entrance and departure, a few “boos” were interspersed. One of those displeased gents walked by me, wearing a Service Employees International Union knitted cap. Guess the Boss’s deal with Wal-Mart wasn’t the hope and change he was looking for.
That, though, was about the only bit of discontent. There was ample evidence of Obama’s ability to inspire.
Out in the crowd, a mother and daughter from Orlando held up a sign that read, “You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not The Only One.” The mother, Randa Black, said, “I like when Obama speaks about change, and I hear people saying there’s hope and change, well, he’s changed me. So I already know that he is changing the world. He’s changing the way the world views us, and I think that’s very powerful.”
Her daughter, McKenna, said, “This is the highest rated voting for my age group [young voters] ever. No one was ever interested or even had pride in our country, almost upset that they were American and not from somewhere else. I think Obama gives us pride and hope for change. It’s an honor to be an American knowing we have a great leader for once.”
Similarly high spirits were found among Gloria Tacklyn, Deborah Richardson, Kim Knights and Debora Bull, who had traveled from Bermuda to attend.
“We came to see the first African-American president inaugurated,” said Deborah Richardson. “And we can’t even vote here.”
“He’s for everyone,” Gloria enthused. “Black, latino, white — everyone.”