Washington Party: Inauguration Kicks Off With a Bang

Obama and family attend a star-studded concert at Lincoln Memorial

January 18, 2009, 6:29 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2009 -- Frigid temperatures didn't stop tens of thousands of people from packing a star-studded preinauguration concert today at the the Lincoln Memorial.

The future first family -- Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and two daughers, Malia and Sasha, were the guests of honor, serenaded at the show by such music giants as Beyonce, Garth Brooks, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Usher, Stevie Wonder and Jon Bon Jovi.

"Anything is possible in America," Obama said after the concert. "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 concert concluded a packed weekend of inaugural pomp and circumstance. The big money event -- the actual swearing in when Obama officially becomes president -- however, takes place Tuesday when millions of people are expected to watch on the National Mall.

But Sunday's crowd was impressive in its own right, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Some in attendance had traveled a great distance to take in the festivities.

"Seeing Garth Brooks sing 'Shout' was the coolest thing I saw all day. All these people on either side of the Reflecting Pool were all throwing up their hands at the same time," said Andy Johnstonbaugh, an 18-year-old freshman at Penn State who comes from Harrisburg, Pa.

Even though the celebratory power seemed as a big as a Hollywood awards show, for many there was only one person to see.

"We could just see Barack on the JumboTron a little at the end, but I wish we were closer. He's really the only celebrity I wanted to see. All the singing is nice, but the celebrating won't start for me until we see him with his hand on that Bible on Tuesday," Susan Freeman, 50, of Philadelphia told ABC.

Obama was putting the finishing touches on his inaugural address, and today he gave a hint of some of the themes he'll hit.

"Never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard," the president-elect said.

Obama started his day at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary, where he and Vice President-elect Joe Biden laid a wreath. Then, Obama, with his family, made a visit to the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

It was only a visit, at least for now, apparently. Obama's director of religious affairs released a statement saying the incoming first couple has yet to select its permanent church home.

Obama Intends to Keep Iraq Withdrawal Vow

Across town at Howard University, Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave a sermon in which he seemed to have made his peace with his former parishioner. But Wright -- in an exclusive interview with ABC News after the sermon -- showed he's still furious with the media.

Meanwhile, an Obama adviser reiterated that the president-to-be intends to hit the ground running on Day 1. Senior adviser David Axelrod told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Obama will give an "out of Iraq within 16 months" command within hours of taking over as commander in chief.

"That was something that he's consistently said," Axelrod said. "He believes that that is a reasonable timetable. We've moved a great distance from the time he started talking about that. And now we're in an area where everyone agrees that we should be on a path to withdrawing those troops. And he is going to begin that process as promised on that day."