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The “Celebrating America” Inauguration Special Warmed Our Cold, Cynical Hearts

Oh right, that's what hope feels like.

After 4 years of holding our breath, the world let out a collective sigh of relief yesterday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in, bringing Donald Trump’s reign of terror to an end. It’s an understatement to say that the past 4 years have left us all battered and brutalized, worn thin by stress and despair. And while we’ve been waiting a long four years for this national nightmare to end, it was challenging to awaken our long slumbering hope and optimism.

In fact, many of us are still numb from the trauma of Trump, and struggling to acclimate to what the future might bring. It’s hard to celebrate this victory when all of the problems Trump created are still very much with us. A global pandemic, an economic recession, and a violent siege on the Capitol that happened only two weeks go.

But despite it all, the inauguration special “Celebrating America” struck a deep emotional core with many viewers. From the moment it started, with Bruce Springsteen singing “Land of Hopes and Dreams” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the dynamic program reminded us of hope and optimism, while addressing the challenges we still face.

Usually, an inauguration celebration is a more exclusive affair, with grand balls and an A-list crowd of attendees. That was rendered impossible and frankly inappropriate due to the pandemic, so the producers took a page from the DNC and turned the special into a celebration of essential workers and the people who have kept us afloat over the past year.

In between videos of nurses, teachers, doctors, and frontline workers, there were musical performances from an all-star line-up that included Bon Jovi singing The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” Justin Timberlake and Ant Clemons performing “Better Days,” and John Legend singing “Feeling Good.” The Black Pumas sang “Colors,” and DJ Cassidy, Ozuna, and Luis Fonsi performed socially distant renditions of “Taki Taki” and “Despacito.” Later, Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard sang “Undivided,” Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These,”, Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day,” and the program ended with Katy Perry’s stirring “Firework” final number amid a stunning fireworks display.

But there were so many lovely moments in between. The special, hosted by America’s dad Tom Hanks, featured a chat between Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama who wished Biden and Harris well and offered advice. Lin-Manuel Miranda read from Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure of Troy.” And in my personal favorite segment, Broadway stars past and present performed Rent‘s “Seasons of Love” and “Let the Sunshine In” from Hair.

There was an earnestness to the entire program, a sincerity threaded through the broadcast that felt surprisingly affirming. It was also a marked contrast to Trump’s inauguration, which featured the musical stylings of Three Doors Down and Toby Keith. Trump’s inauguration, while filled with pomp, not only lacked an A-list line-up. It was completely devoid of any feeling or celebration for the country, as stingy and self-centered as the man himself. And it was also, like all things Trump, tacky and poorly managed. Like that infamous fast food spread, it was endemic of Trump’s classlessness and inability to appreciate the awesome power and legacy of his position.

“Celebrating America” was, as advertised, a shout-out to the people who make our country good. The Biden Harris inaugural committee smartly shined its light on us rather than themselves, a welcome reprieve from the megalomania of the preceding administration. It feels strange to be hopeful in these dark times, but “Celebrating America”‘s message rang loud and clear: there is goodness within us, and working together only makes that goodness shine brighter. What a concept.

(featured image: screencap)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.