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Hollywood throws star power behind Biden and Harris as it helps usher in new era

Tom Hanks hosted the Celebrating America TV special to mark Joe Biden’s inauguration (Biden Inaugural Committee via AP)
Tom Hanks hosted the Celebrating America TV special to mark Joe Biden’s inauguration (Biden Inaugural Committee via AP)

Hollywood helped usher in the era of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with a star-studded primetime TV special to mark inauguration day.

Celebrating America – broadcast across multiple networks and streamed online – was hosted by Tom Hanks, who stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and said “the dream of America has no limit”.

Mr Biden and his vice-president Ms Harris both delivered speeches during the 90-minute special, with the president issuing another call for unity against “common foes – hate, violence, disease and hopelessness”.

He said: “There is not anything we cannot do if we do it together.”

Ms Harris, who made history as the first female vice-president, praised “American aspiration” as she listed some of the country’s historic achievements.

She said: “We are bold, fearless and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up. This is American aspiration.”

The special included a heavy Hollywood presence, with Hanks, widely seen as an actor beloved and respected across the political spectrum, being joined by Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and John Legend, among others.

There was also a joint appearance from three former presidents – with Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama heralding the peaceful transfer of power.

Oscar-winner Hanks opened the show and said: “In the last few weeks, in the last few years, we have witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancour in our land but tonight we ponder the United States of America.

“The practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union.”

He said the presidential inauguration “marks the commitment” of a new four-year term, but added it is much more important than just welcoming a new leader.

Hanks said: “This day is about witnessing the permanence of the American ideal.”

Addressing the traditional inauguration speech from the president, Hanks said: “If the words ring out it is not only due to the power of the oratory, it is because the dream of America has no limit.”

The musical choices – Lovely Day, Feeling Good, Here Comes The Sun, Times Like These and Land Of Hope And Dreams – pointed to the special’s theme of a new dawn in America.

The star power on display for Mr Biden and Ms Harris stood in stark contrast to the industry’s stance against Donald Trump, who became a favourite target of entertainment figures during his time in office.

Foo Fighters performed Times Like These after frontman Dave Grohl, whose mother was a teacher, paid tribute to the profession and said: “This year our teachers were faced with unprecedented challenges but through dedication and creativity they faced those challenges head on.”

Washington, star of TV drama Scandal, was among those paying tribute to Ms Harris. Washington said: “She is the first but she will not be the last. The future of girls everywhere is limitless.”

Hamilton creator Miranda read Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s work The Cure At Troy, a favourite piece of Mr Biden.

Mr Biden, hours into his reign, said it was “humbling” to stand at the Lincoln Memorial before delivering a speech describing the challenges of a raging pandemic, economic catastrophe and racial injustice as equal to other crisis moments in the country’s history.

“As I said earlier today we have learned again that democracy is precious and because of you, democracy has prevailed,” Mr Biden said, adding, “this is a great nation, we’re a good people”.

Mr Biden said: “There is not anything we cannot do if we do it together”.

Ms Harris listed civil rights victories from US history and said: “A great experiment takes great determination. The will to do the work and then the wisdom to keep refining, keep tinkering, keep perfecting.”

Ms Harris said “the same determination is being realised in America today,” as she praised scientists and teachers.

Pop star Perry brought the curtain down on the show, performing her hit Firework as fireworks illuminated the sky behind her with Mr Biden and his family watching on.

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