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Celebrating America
Written by
  • Dave Boone
  • Jon Macks
Directed by Glenn Weiss
Presented by Tom Hanks
Composer Chris Walden
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerSarah Levine Hall
  • Michael Polito
  • Chester Contaoi
  • Ben Folts
  • Enrique Gutierrez
  • Brian Kelly
  • Timothy Schultz
Production companies
  • White Cherry Entertainment
  • Presidential Inaugural Committee
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 20, 2021 (2021-01-20)

Celebrating America is 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, Glenn Weiss, and Stephanie Cutter, the special featured musical performances and speeches from various Americans, including those from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The show was nominated in two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety Special (Live) and Outstanding Music Direction. [1]


Harris's speech during the special

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. [2] 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. [3]

Anthony Gaskin, a Virginia UPS deliveryman, introduced Jon Bon Jovi, who performed an acoustic rendition of " Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles. [3] 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. [4] 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, [3] and then the band performed " Times Like These". [5] A cavalcade of Broadway stars performed " Seasons of Love" and " Let the Sunshine In".

Fireworks from the finale of the program with Katy Perry performing “ Firework” at the National Mall.

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. [3] Lin-Manuel Miranda then recited Irish poet Seamus Heaney's " The Cure at Troy", [6] with Biden joining him to in unison recital of the final line, "And hope and history rhyme". It is a poem 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. [7] John Legend then performed his rendition of " Feeling Good". [5]

Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who is the first U.S. citizen to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, [8] introduced Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw, who performed their collaborative song " Undivided" on a Nashville rooftop. [9] 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; [3] they also offered words of support for Biden and Harris. Demi Lovato then celebrated frontline healthcare workers in their performance of Bill Withers's song " Lovely Day". [5] 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. [2]



Speaker Description Location Notes
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
SGT Brennan Lombardo United States Marine Corps aviation operations specialist Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan
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"

Kathleen Rubins
Shannon Walker
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

Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Former presidents of the United States Arlington Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington County, Virginia


Performer(s) Song(s) Location
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
" Simple Gifts"
Boston, Massachusetts
Ant Clemons
Justin Timberlake
"Better Days" Memphis, Tennessee
Black Pumas " Colors" Austin, Texas
Foo Fighters " Times Like These"
Broadway theatre performers [10] " Seasons of Love"
" Let the Sunshine In"
New York City, New York
John Legend " Feeling Good" National Mall in Washington, D.C.
DJ Cassidy
Luis Fonsi
" Taki Taki"
" Despacito"
Los Angeles, California
Tyler Hubbard
Tim McGraw
" Undivided" Nashville, Tennessee
Demi Lovato " Lovely Day" Los Angeles, California
Katy Perry " Firework" National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Production and broadcast

Celebrating America was produced by Ricky Kirshner, Glenn Weiss, and Stephanie Cutter the same team that produced the 2020 Democratic National Convention. [11] 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. [12]

The fireworks display for the program's finales was created by Strictly FX. [13]


Critical response

The event was acclaimed by critics, with Caroline Framke of Variety writing that Celebrating America "perfectly encapsulates President Joe Biden". [14] 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." [15] 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." [16] Writing for The Independent, Mark Beaumont said that the special made Biden's inauguration "a safe, soothing tribute to anti-fascism." [17]

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." [18]


More than 21 million people watched the television special, [19] 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. [20]

Network Viewers
(million) [20]
CNN 6.224
MSNBC 4.518
NBC 3.996
ABC 3.789
CBS 3.101
BET 0.182

  Broadcast network

  Cable network

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Special (Live) Ricky Kirshner, Glenn Weiss, Stephanie Cutter, Rod O'Connor, Rob Paine, Lisa Geers, Sarah Levine Hall and Tom Hanks Nominated [1]
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Music Direction Rickey Minor Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Celebrating America – An Inauguration Night Special". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Lejeune, Tristan (January 20, 2021). "Bruce Springsteen kicks off 'Celebrating America' special with 'Land of Hope and Dreams'". TheHill. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Arkin, Daniel (January 20, 2021). "Top moments from Biden's 'Celebrating America' inauguration special". NBC News. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  4. ^ "Ant Clemons on Performing 'Better Days' with Justin Timberlake During the Inauguration Special". NBC Los Angeles. January 20, 2021. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Weprin, Alex (January 13, 2021). "Tom Hanks Hosting 'Celebrating America' Inaugural Special With Performances From Demi Lovato & More". Billboard. Archived from the original on January 13, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  6. ^ Chamlee, Virginia (January 18, 2021). "Lin-Manuel Miranda Joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, José Andrés and More for Biden Inaugural Special". Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Hurtado, Alexandra (January 20, 2021). "The First Female Vice President Kamala Harris Makes Her First Speech as Veep: 'We Not Only Dream, We Do'". Parade. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  8. ^ Otterman, Sharon (December 14, 2020). "'I Trust Science,' Says Nurse Who Is First to Get Vaccine in U.S." The New York Times. ISSN  0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 30, 2020. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  9. ^ Freeman, Jon (January 19, 2021). "Tim McGraw, Tyler Hubbard to Perform on Joe Biden's Inauguration TV Special". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  10. ^ Gans, Andrew (21 January 2021). "Watch Over 35 Broadway Stars Usher in a 'Season of Love' During Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Inauguration Celebration". Playbill. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  11. ^ Gardner, Chris (22 January 2021). "'Celebrating America' Inauguration Special Producer on How They Pulled Off the January Event". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  12. ^ Countryman, Eli (20 January 2021). "How to Watch Tom Hanks' 'Celebrating America' Inauguration Special". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  13. ^ Lampert-Greaux, Ellen (3 February 2021). "Inauguration Fireworks by Strictly FX". LiveDesignOnline. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  14. ^ Framke, Caroline (20 January 2021). "'Celebrating America': Earnest Inauguration Special Perfectly Encapsulates President Joe Biden". Variety. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  15. ^ Janiak, Lily (20 January 2021). "Review: Inauguration special 'Celebrating America' is meh TV but fantastic civics". Datebook. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  16. ^ Patten, Dominic; Johnson, Ted (20 January 2021). "'Celebrating America' TV Review: Tom Hanks-Hosted Biden Inauguration Special Proves A Solemn & Successful Affair". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  17. ^ Beaumont, Mark (21 January 2021). "Celebrating America review: Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry and more made Biden's inauguration concert a safe, soothing tribute to anti-fascism". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  18. ^ Poniewozik, James (20 January 2021). "Critic's notebook: 'Celebrating America' promised that daylight is coming". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  19. ^ Koblin, John (January 21, 2020). "Biden's Inauguration Scores Bigger TV Ratings Than Trump's". The New York Times. ISSN  0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  20. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (January 22, 2021). "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 1.20.2021". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2021.

External links