Hollywood on the Potomac | NBC New York

Hollywood on the Potomac

Obama tells thousands at Lincoln Memorial he's hopeful despite challenges



    President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, arrive at "We Are One: Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009, in Washington.

    WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama is "as hopeful as ever" that the nation will overcome the most difficult challenges it has faced in generations.

    Obama told a crowd attending a preinaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial that they are the ones responsible for his promise of change.

    He spoke of men and women from different backgrounds who asked "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."

    "Anything is possible in America," declared the man who will confront economic crisis and two wars when he takes office.

    "Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead, 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," the president-elect said at the conclusion of a musical extravaganza that featured U2, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and a host of other stars.

    Solving the nation's problems will take time, he said. The road will be long and the climb will be steep.

    Under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln's statue, Bruce Springsteen and a red-robed gospel choir kicked off a spirited preinaugural concert Sunday before tens of thousands on the National Mall.

    The crowd erupted in cheers when Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived, walking down the steps of the memorial, and kept applauding for the high-energy Springsteen act and the performances that followed. There was no red carpet, but the event had the feel of a Hollywood awards ceremony, with stars taking the stage to praise and serenade the next president.

    Performers including U2, Beyonce and James Taylor were on the bill.

    A crowd expected to reach up to a half-million was stretched past the reflecting pool separating the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

    Obama and his wife and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, sat behind bullet-proof glass near the stage erected on the steps of the memorial.

    The concert began with Springsteen, dressed in black, singing "The Rising," with the help of the choir, taking a song best known as a call to action following the 2001 terror attacks and using it to usher in a new era in American politics.

    Denzel Washington was the first celebrity to speak, telling the crowd, "we are all in this together."

    Another speaker was actor Tom Hanks, who as Forrest Gump famously gave a speech at the monument steps and jumped into the reflecting pool. This time, he appeared in a dark suit and read a somber tribute to Abraham Lincoln.

    Jamie Foxx brought many in the crowd -- and the Obamas -- to their feet by repeatedly urging those from Chicago to make some noise: "Chi-town, stand up!" he demanded.

    Foxx then launched into a quick impersonation of the president-elect.

    Joe Biden told the crowd: "Look around you. Look at the grace and grandeur that surrounds us and you'll see the work of American hands."

    The crowd threw their hands up for Garth Brooks' thumping rendition of "Shout!" supported by a massive choir wearing red and blue jackets against the cold.

     The crowd, including Obama and Biden, were writhing when Stevie Wonder, Usher, and Shakira pumped out Wonder's classic "Higher Ground."

     Sheryl Crow and will.i.am performed "One Love," and golf great Tiger Woods, the son of a military man, urged the audience to remember the sacrifices of military families.

     The event began with a convocation by the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, who asked the crowd to pray for "understanding that our president is a human being and not a messiah."