U.S. President-elect Barack Obama kicked off his inauguration week by
saying the challenges the United States faces will take many months or
years to overcome, but he is as hopeful as ever that the American dream
will live on.
Mr. Obama spoke Sunday at a concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial in
Washington, two days before his inauguration as the nation's first
African-American president. The inauguration ceremony will be held at
the other end of the National Mall, on the steps of the Capitol
Mr. Obama said Sunday that the diverse audience of tens of thousands
around the monuments gave him hope that the people of the United States
might work together to bring hope and opportunity to places where they
are needed. He said the true character of the nation is defined by the
right it does during hard times.
The concert, which featured a broad range of American music and historical vignettes presented by well-known actors.
Rock star Bruce Springsteen began the show accompanied by a red-robed
gospel choir. Later acts featured country music star Garth Brooks,
singer/songwriter James Taylor; R-and-B artists Stevie Wonder, Beyonce,
Usher, and Mary J. Blige; and opera star Renee Fleming.
There were also special appearances by actors Tom Hanks, and Denzel
Washington, as well as Martin Luther King the third, son of the late
human rights activist.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden also spoke at the concert, praising the value of work and the dignity it brings.
Mr. Obama and Biden began their day with a visit to Arlington National
Cemetery, where they laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns -- one
of the focal points of the military cemetery.
The Obamas and Bidens then attended church separately before joining
again to enjoy the inaugural concert, behind a bullet-proof glass
The Lincoln Memorial was the scene of one of civil rights leader Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s most famous speeches -- the "I Have a Dream" address
of August 1963. It was also the scene of a historic 1939 performance by
African-American singer Marian Anderson, who had been refused
permission to perform in a nearby venue because of her race.
It was President Abraham Lincoln, in 1862, who issued the Emancipation
Proclamation to free slaves in the United States. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama
will place his hand on Lincoln's Bible when taking the oath of office.
Mr. Obama prepares to take office with some of the highest approval
ratings on record for a president-elect. He is expected to try to use
that goodwill to make swift changes in U.S. policy on the economy,
energy, and the war in Iraq.