Celebrating America was a television special which aired as part of the post-inaugural events following the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021. Hosted by actor Tom Hanks and produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss (the latter of whom directed the program), the special featured musical performances and speeches from various Americans, including those from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
|Directed by||Glenn Weiss|
|Presented by||Tom Hanks|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Producer||Sarah Levine Hall|
|Original network||ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, BET, CNN and MSNBC|
|Original release||January 20, 2021|
Traditional inaugural balls, which often gather hundreds of dignitaries to see the president and extend late into the evening, were not held due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A primetime television special, Celebrating America, aired as a substitute in simulcast across most major television networks and other cable and streaming outlets. Hosted by Tom Hanks, the evening event opened with a performance of "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Hanks then addressed viewers, emphasizing the "promise of our promised land", and introduced four guests, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dolores Huerta, Brayden Harrington, and Kim Ng who, respectively, recited lines from the inaugural addresses of presidents Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, reflecting on their speeches' emphasis of national unity, confidence, patriotism, and peace.
Anthony Gaskin, a Virginia UPS deliveryman, introduced Jon Bon Jovi, who performed an acoustic rendition of "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles. Yo-Yo Ma performed a cello solo sampling "Amazing Grace", "Goin' Home" from Dvořák's 9th symphony, and "Simple Gifts". Biden was then introduced by Hanks to the U.S. Navy Band Brass Ensemble's playing of four ruffles and flourishes and "Hail to the Chief"; he spoke inside the Lincoln Memorial and emphasized the importance of "opportunity, liberty, dignity, and respect". Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake then performed their song "Better Days" in Memphis, Tennessee. Mackenzie Adams, a Washington elementary school teacher, then introduced Foo Fighters; frontman Dave Grohl opened the performance by acknowledging the "creative ways" educators have dealt with teaching modality challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the band performed "Times Like These". A cavalcade of Broadway stars performed "Seasons of Love" and "Let the Sunshine In".
Chef and philanthropist José Andrés discussed the food insecurity crisis in America, and introduced Morgan Marsh-McGlone, a Wisconsin elementary school student who raised over US$52,000 for the hungry by creating an online lemonade stand. Lin-Manuel Miranda then recited Irish poet Seamus Heaney's "The Cure at Troy", with Biden joining him to in unison recital of the final line, "And hope and history rhyme". It is a poem one often quoted by Biden, such as in his address at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. American members of the Expedition 64 mission on the International Space Station then greeted viewers from orbit. Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play in a football game for a Power Five conference team, introduced Vice President Harris to four ruffles and flourishes and "Hail, Columbia"; she characterized the American people as "bold, fearless, and ambitious", exemplifying the Apollo 11 moon landing and civil rights and women's suffragette movements. John Legend then performed his rendition of "Feeling Good".
Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who is the first U.S. citizen to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, introduced Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw, who performed their collaborative song "Undivided" on a Nashville rooftop. Former presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, appearing in the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, remarked on the importance of uniting America and witnessing the peaceful transfer of power; they also offered words of support for Biden and Harris. Demi Lovato then celebrated frontline healthcare workers in her performance of Bill Withers's song "Lovely Day". In closing the special, Katy Perry performed her song "Firework" during a fireworks show over the Washington Monument, with views of Biden, Harris, and their spouses watching from the White House and Lincoln Memorial.
|Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||Former professional basketball player||Recited a portion of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address|
|Dolores Huerta||Labor leader and civil rights activist||Recited a portion of Franklin D. Roosevelt's inaugural address|
|Brayden Harrington||13-year-old student who spoke about his experience with Joe Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention||Recited a portion of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address|
|Kim Ng||General manager of the Miami Marlins||Recited a portion of Ronald Reagan's inaugural address|
|Eva Longoria||Actress||Los Angeles, California|
|Anthony Gaskin||UPS deliveryman||Midlothian, Virginia||Introduced Jon Bon Jovi|
|Joe Biden||President of the United States||Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.|
|Cavanaugh Bell||8-year-old boy who started his own food pantry||Gaithersburg, Maryland||Introduced Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake|
|Mackenzie Adams||Elementary school teacher||Seattle, Washington||Introduced Foo Fighters|
|Kerry Washington||Actress||Los Angeles, California|
|José Andrés||Chef and philanthropist||Washington, D.C.||Introduced Morgan Marsh-McGlone|
|Morgan Marsh-McGlone||Elementary school student who raised money for the hungry by creating an online lemonade stand.||Belleville, Wisconsin|
|Lin-Manuel Miranda||Actor||United Palace in New York City, New York||Recited Seamus Heaney's "The Cure at Troy"|
Victor J. Glover
Michael S. Hopkins
|American crew members of Expedition 64||International Space Station|
|Sarah Fuller||College football placekicker for the Vanderbilt Commodores||Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee||Introduced Kamala Harris|
|Kamala Harris||Vice President of the United States||National Mall in Washington, D.C.|
|Sandra Lindsay||Nurse who became the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine||New York City, New York||Introduced Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw|
George W. Bush
|Former presidents of the United States||Arlington Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington County, Virginia|
|Bruce Springsteen||"Land of Hope and Dreams"||Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.|
|Jon Bon Jovi||"Here Comes the Sun"||Miami, Florida|
|Yo-Yo Ma||"Amazing Grace"
"Goin' Home" from Dvořák's 9th symphony
|"Better Days"||Memphis, Tennessee|
|Black Pumas||"Colors"||Austin, Texas|
|Foo Fighters||"Times Like These"|
|Broadway theatre performers||"Seasons of Love"
"Let the Sunshine In"
|New York City, New York|
|John Legend||"Feeling Good"||National Mall in Washington, D.C.|
|Los Angeles, California|
|Demi Lovato||"Lovely Day"||Los Angeles, California|
|Katy Perry||"Firework"||National Mall in Washington, D.C.|
Production and broadcastEdit
Celebrating America was produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, the same team that produced the 2020 Democratic National Convention. It was broadcast on all major television networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, as well as cable networks such as BET, CNN and MSNBC. It was also livestreamed online through the Presidential Inaugural Committee's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch accounts. Streaming partners for the event include Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNow from Fox, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse.
The event was acclaimed by critics, with Caroline Framke of Variety writing that Celebrating America "perfectly encapsulates President Joe Biden". Lily Janiak of the San Francisco Chronicle described the special as "meh TV but fantastic civics" and that it could "help us make ordinariness and kindness normal again." Dominic Patten and Ted Johnson of Deadline Hollywood wrote that Celebrating America proved a "solemn & successful affair" and that it was "a PSA for the USA, and maybe the calming medicine of a message that we and the world needed to hear." Writing for The Independent, Mark Beaumont said that the special made Biden's inauguration "a safe, soothing tribute to anti-fascism."
While he described the special's content as "more the entertainment-politics equivalent of a chain restaurant with a big menu" where "it wasn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, but everyone could find something on the menu for them", chief television critic of The New York Times James Poniewozik wrote that it "promised that daylight is coming" and that "the long, cold, lonely winter would end, and the sun would come."
More than 21 million people watched the television special, with CNN's broadcast being watched by over 6 million people, as part of its overall coverage of the inauguration ceremony. NBC's broadcast of the special was the most watched among the broadcast networks, followed by ABC and CBS. The three networks' telecast of the event competed with Fox's The Masked Dancer and Name That Tune and The CW's Riverdale and Nancy Drew.
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