President Barack Obama can expect some sweet serenades at his inauguration ceremony, with hit-makers Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor on tap to perform some of the country’s most patriotic songs.
From Hollywood to Music Row, celebrities have been a staple of Obama’s candidacy and presidency, so it was with little surprise that some of the biggest names in entertainment are helping him celebrate his Jan. 21 swearing-in.
Planners said Jan. 9 that Obama picked Beyonce to sing the national anthem, Clarkson to perform “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and Taylor to sing “America the Beautiful.”
Beyonce and Taylor have been devoted Obama supporters. Beyonce sang the Etta James classic “At Last” for the president and first lady’s dance at the inaugural balls four years ago and hosted a $4 million fundraiser for his re-election. Taylor sang at the White House in Obama's first term and at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
Clarkson, however, once said she was a fan of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul for the 2012 race, although she said she voted Obama in 2008. She said on Twitter Jan. 9 that she is “excited & honored” to be performing at the inaugural.
Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, is the 2013 inaugural poet, joining a select group that includes Maya Angelou and the late Robert Frost. Blanco”s works explore his family's exile from Cuba and “the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man,” inauguration planners announced. They said Blanco, 44, will be the youngest-ever inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or gay to recite a poem at the ceremonial swearing-in.
“His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers,” Obama said in a statement. “Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”
Obama also gave a nod to the diversity of styles and backgrounds of the musical performers, saying that “their music is often at the heart of the American story and speaks to folks across the country.”
Blanco said in the statement that he was “brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude” at being selected.
“In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life's story — America’s story, really,” he said.
Paperbacks of Blanco’s books are out of stock on Amazon.com. They, along with virtually all works of poetry, are not available at e-books because publishers have not figured out how to format poetry properly for a digital device, so the only way to buy them is to find a used print copy.
The announcements are part of the specifics beginning to emerge for the festivities planned over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21, because inaugurations aren't traditionally held on Sundays. The president will have a private swearing-in ceremony at the White House at noon on Jan. 20, the time the Constitution says his second term begins.
The official celebration will include the swearing-in on the Capitol’s west front, followed by a luncheon inside the building’s Statuary Hall for 200 including congressional leaders, Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices. Planners said the lunch menu will feature steamed lobster, New England chowder, hickory grilled bison with wild huckleberry reduction and red potato horseradish cake and a dessert of apple pie, ice cream, cheese and honey.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the congressional committee overseeing events at the Capitol, said wines will be served with each course from his home state. Planners say they are decorating the tables with orange flowers in silver cachepots, “a geometric patterned tablecloth that picks up the copper and bronze tones of Statuary Hall,” while the head table will be draped in blue velvet.
Schumer’s committee plans to present Obama with a custom hand-cut crystal Lenox vase with an etching of the White House. Vice President Joe Biden will be given one etched with an image of the Capitol.
AP National Writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.