02/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Concert from the Lincoln Memorial


It's 10 degrees in Washington D.C. A village of trailers, tents and satellite trucks occupy an acre just south of the stately memorial to Abraham Lincoln. A crew of two hundred in parkas, mufflers, winter underwear and ski hats are at work - musicians, stagehands, crew members and a host of security officials and National Park Service police in fur hats with gold badges.

At eight p.m. - on the stage that has been built on the steps of the memorial by designer Steve Bass - Beyonce holds forth in her own stylish cold weather gear, rehearsing her number with 225 members of the Naval Academy Glee Club, each singer emitting frosty air along with the notes. Minutes later Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye La Vette take the stage as the temperature drops a couple of points - but everyone has a joyful approach, animated by the feeling of being involved in making a little history.

The public is invited free to the concert that will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. A million people are expected to be on The Mall lined with Jumbotrons to watch the show, and people across the country will see it live on HBO which is providing an "open feed" so all cable and satellite subscribers can tune in. NPR will provide a live radio feed to their listeners and there will be a special feed to the U.S. Armed Forces around the world. We Are One will be shown on HBO overseas, and repeated by HBO in the U.S. at 7 p.m. eastern time.

The theme of this opening event of Inaugural week is that this is a coming together to face a challenging future, not a celebration of victory. We will remember presidents who led us through difficult times and recall the historic occasions that took place at the Lincoln Memorial. All this interspersed with music that connects to these themes from many of the greatest artists of our day.


It is sunny today -- 17 degrees and twenty-four hours to show time. Mary J. Blige was the first on stage today and was a pretty picture singing a hundred feet down the steps from the magnificent statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln. Soon Springsteen will arrive for his rehearsal in the music tent before going on stage, followed by John Mellencamp, then James Taylor, Jennifer Nettles and John Legend who are performing as a trio.

Bono and The Band arrive from Dublin at five o'clock and they will rehearse in the evening. Then Garth Brooks, followed by Usher, Shakira and Stevie Wonder together, and then Renee Fleming. Everyone looks like they're ready for the ski slopes.

The President-elect and the Vice President-elect, who will attend with their families, don't get to rehearse. They are on a train from Philadelphia to Washington and are getting ready to run a country.

On Sunday morning the speakers and readers will rehearse, many of them arriving on overnight flights (two from Sundance) -- Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Samuel Jackson, Rosario Dawson, and Steve Carell, among them.

Don Mischer and Michael Stevens are producing this with me. We received a greenlight from the Presidential Inaugural Committee on January 2nd. We've done a lot of shows but never one that came together this quickly -- or one in which everyone involved is so caught up with the privilege of being part of an occasion that has such special meaning to each of us.