Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Clay Aiken Fans Mark Six Years

REFLECTIONS -- Clay Aiken fans this week commemorate the night they first heard "the voice" during the Jan. 28, 2003 telecast of American Idol Season 2 Atlanta Auditions. Animated graphic by cindilu2.

'Always and Forever' Audition

Fans Celebrate 6th Anniversary

For Clay Aiken fans, January 28 -- a date that represents the founding of the Carnegie Institute (1902), the shocking destruction of the space shuttle Challenger (the "Teacher in Space" mission) 73 seconds after liftoff (1986), and the unveiling of producer Clive Davis's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1997) -- marks the sixth anniversary since the singer's Atlanta audition was aired on American Idol 2.

For countless fans, now known the world over as Claymates or the Clay Nation, the beautiful strains of "Always and Forever" were just the beginning. Many have been on board the Clay Train ever since.

Who could have predicted the musical journey we on the Clay Train have taken with this amazing man as he belted out those first few notes for the AI judges, the difference his positive role model would make in the lives of people around the globe, the close Internet friendships that would form all because of a skinny be-speckled red-headed guy with big feet, floppy ears, and a magnificent set of pipes?

Commemorations of the Atlanta anniversary -- long ago tagged "He Had Me at Take" -- are in full swing with the donning of CA tee/sweat shirts for the day, watching AI2 clack, sharing initial memories of "the vox" six years ago as well as thoughts about how lives have changed since Clay Aiken appeared on the nation's radar.

Pixieglitter's video of the 1/28/03 telecast of the Atlanta audition includes special clips compiled by Hosaa, can be viewed here and at YouTube.

The Atlanta Audition - Montage by Pixieglitter

Fans Recall Jan. 28, 2003

I missed the audition we commemorate this week. A friend asked me what I thought of the skinny kid from North Carolina, so I promptly located a video clip online and tuned into AI from then on to cheer for this amazing singer from my home state. I'm sure I would have had the same initial reaction as the fans quoted below.

Where were you and what were your thoughts upon hearing Clay for the first time? Special thanks to these Clayversity members for allowing me to share their experiences in this blog:

TEXWRITER: I was folding clothes in the bedroom, watching on the bedroom TV, and DH [Dear Husband] was watching in the living room. I didn't even glance at the TV until Clay started singing, but once I did, I was completely mesmerized. Like Randy, I couldn't believe that voice was coming out of that body. The minute his clip was done, I started down the hallway to find DH. Funny thing is he had gotten up to come and find me, so we met each other halfway. We were both completely blown away by his talent and rooted for him from then on.

WILDABOUTCLAY: I still remember the moment vividly. I didn't plan to watch AI2, but it was a slow TV night, and I was channel surfing. By some stroke of fate, I turned AI on as Clay was being introduced. Because I love voices and am naturally curious, I kept it on as he began to sing. WOW! I still remember yelling to my husband in the other room that "this guy has a good voice." I was hooked after that because I wanted to see how he did. When it came to Open Arms night, I was convinced he had the best voice there.

ONEMOREFAN: I can remember watching Clay walk into the room. When he put his arms out and said, "I am the next American Idol," I thought he was cute but sort of expected him to not have a good voice. Then he started singing, and I was actually shocked that someone with that good a voice wasn't already a recording star.

VJM: I wasn't really watching AI. It was on the television by chance, just as background noise. I was doing some serious cleaning in my bedroom, moving books, cleaning the glass of picture frames, rearranging closets. I wasn't even facing the television. I didn't see Clay walk into the audition and didn't tune in to his talk about being the next American Idol. I didn't see what he looked like. But then he sang that first phrase, I was immediately captivated, turned around, and sat on the edge of the bed to watch the rest. That's all it took. He's had my attention ever since.

NETTE: The night of the Atlanta audition I had been sleeping on the couch, woke up, picked up the remote and started channel surfing. When I came to Fox, I recognized the show as the one my son had liked the year before. I watched it for a while, but was disgusted at the bad auditions. I picked up the remote to change the channel just as Clay walked in.

He caught my attention before he even started to sing. There was the brightest aura around him even on TV. When he sang, I just froze. This was the best voice I had ever heard, and I could not understand why they were haggling about his looks. He looked beautiful, and with his voice why did they care. He took the darkness out of my life that night, and I knew I would beat cancer because there was just no way I was going to leave Clay.

ROSEVIOLET: Like a lot of other people, I only saw the last couple of episodes of AI1 and found it intriguing. When AI2 started, I was determined to watch it from the beginning. When Clay first stepped up for his audition, I thought, "Oh dear, he's going to be one of the bad ones" and then was totally blown away by his voice. I felt that connection with him from that point on. It has only been further cemented in place over the years. I don't know why. I have never felt this way about any singer before, not even when I really was 12.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features graphics highlighting the past six years. Visual artists represented include Amazing_CA, photos by Tasapio, 1; cindilu2, photos by Tasapio, 2; ABeautifulMind, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by toni7babe, 4; and CLAYPERFECT, 5.

Season 2 Memories Still Vivid

DYLAN: When he returned for the Wildcard Show and sang DLTSGDOM, that's when I noticed the singing voice for the first time. I was thinking, "Who is this guy who swallows the last note in each phrase?" I had never heard anyone sing like that before. From that time on, I was and still am a complete goner.

RCKNRLLMOM: I believe I was where I needed to be six years ago. Just coming out of a life altering situation being diagnosed with cancer and going through all the emotions and treatments. I had faith, for sure; I had to. But life was just starting to go on. We were all watching the night Clay sang for the judges for the first time. I think my mouth dropped open at the voice that came out. I was amazed; I was hooked. My heart opened that night, too. The joy was back. It started with a simple word -- "Take" -- and has grown a thousand-fold since.

CLAYLEE: The beginning of my love affair with Clay began with DLTSGDOM in the Wildcard Show but really blossomed when, during an interview, he was talking about Simon's remarks to him about not looking like a pop star. Clay said he would always have these (flipping his ears out) and that he was okay with that. There was no vanity, no embarrassment, just pure honesty. He got me with that, and the rest is history.

SALTWATERDOG: I remember Clay well. I remember his confidence. I remember thinking how beautiful his skin and cheekbones were. And the voice! Mr. Salt and I just looked at each other and went, "WOW!" We laughed at the comments, agreeing that Clay did not look like a pop star, and cheered when Clay went on to the next step. We still tease the neighbors about how they got us started watching AI, blaming them for how we travel cross-country to see Clay in concert.

IRISHBOOKGAL: During the Atlanta audition show I was listening while I was in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. I was just about to take a batch out of the oven when Clay began to sing. His voice just did something to me; and I jerked, burning my hand on the oven as I ran to see just who that was. My cookies burned to a crisp, and I still have a little "Clay scar" on my my hand. He had me hook, line, and sinker from "take"!

Bumpy Road to Final 12

As longtime CA fans know, Clay lost to Quiana Parler, now one of his backup singers, in the finals of his Charlotte audition. Thankfully, he was determined enough to drive to Atlanta and try again. That stubbornness served him well as he was eventually bumped again in Hollywood, returning for the Wildcard Show and blowing everyone away with his rendition of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down." The American public responded by voting the North Carolinian into the final field of 12.

Though Clay finished second to winner Ruben Studdard in the spring finale, he has attracted countless fans from multiple generations with his golden voice, entertaining shows, and a profound dedication to use his celebrity to make a difference. Co-founder of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation with a mission of inclusion for all children, Clay serves as a special ambassador for UNICEF and has traveled throughout the world promoting these causes.

Aspiegirl's montage of "If You Don't Know Me By Now," a bonus cut from the A Thousand Different Ways album, provides an overview of Clay's career as an entertainer, as well as his philanthropic endeavors:

If You Don't Know Me By Now - Montage by Aspiegirl

From Atlanta to Broadway

Fountaindawg's collage "Happy Sixth Anniversary" is another special commemoration of January events 2003 - 2009, replete with photos and quotations signifying the initial introduction, as well as Clay's successful leap onto the Broadway stage as Sir Robin in "Spamalot" last year.

Happy 6th Anniversary!
Wallpaper by Fountaindawg

During the Jan. 28, 2003, telecast, AI judge Simon Cowell began the now famous litany that he continued off and on throughout the competition: "You don't look like a pop star."

In media promos prior to Clay's Broadway run as Sir Robin, Spamalot director Mike Nichols frequently spoke of Clay's talent in this manner:

"Clay Aiken is amazing beyond that glorious voice. Turns out he is an excellent comic actor and a master of character. People will be surprised by his wide ranging talent, since the first impression is of great country charm and a singer to remember. This guy is not only a star, he is a lot more.

We are lucky to get him for Spamalot. ... The guy is not only a star; he is a lot more."

Below is a clickable of cindilu2's opening graphic, "Reflections":

Idol Found, Game Over!

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


Other Clay Blogs commemorating the "Always and Forever" audition include Clay Aiken News Network, Clayigraphy, There Was a Man, and Hosaa's Blog.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Voice, Heart Win Aiken Fans

Clay Aiken - Measure of a Man (UNICEF) Montage

Golfing for Inclusion Updates

It's All About the Voice, Heart

We came for the voice but stayed for the man.

An anonymous phrase coined early in Clay Aiken's career remains the mantra of fans six years later. Throughout the spring of 2003, the singer's incredible pipes wooed legions of followers as week after week he progressed to the finale of American Idol 2.

By mid-summer when Clay and Diane Bubel founded The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, officially turning a college blueprint into an organization working to bridge the gap between young people with special needs and the world around them, supporters knew a little more about the heart of the man.

The title track and "I Will Carry You" from Measure of a Man, Clay's first album, have practically become theme songs for his charitable projects of inclusion and worldwide endeavors as a UNICEF Ambassador. The latter are portrayed in the 2007 Measure of a Man montage above by Gerwhisp.

IN ALL THINGS, LOVE -- Animated graphic by cindilu2.

TBAF Hosts Golfing for Inclusion

Monday Clay and PGA professional Wayne Player co-hosted the 2nd Annual Golfing for Inclusion, a fundraiser for TBAF, at the Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

The day-long event featured a festive day of golf, auctions, and a formal evening of exquisite cuisine and entertainment by the singer. Pianist was Ben Cohn, currently assistant conductor and first keyboardist for the Broadway show Wicked.

Below is Scarlett's video of "This Is the Moment" from the 2009 GFT program.

This Is the Moment - Clay Aiken, 2009 GFI

At YouTube, fans can view videos of This Is the Moment (Scarlett), as well as I Don't Have the Heart, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, Mandy, Right Here Wating , and Proud of Your Boy by Goldarngirl.

These Sendspace links are audio files by Goldarngirl from Monday night's program:

I Don't Have the Heart To Hurt You

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word


This Is the Moment

Right Here Waiting

Proud of Your Boy

PHOTO INTERLUDE - This clickable interlude provides glimpses from the 2009 Golfing for Inclusion, as well as two graphics from the 2008 event. Featured are photos of Clay and Wayne Player on the golf course by Katy4Clay, 1, 2; evening festivities photo by Shamrock, 3; 2008 graphics by Clayquebec1, 4, and Amazing_CA, 5.

Sunday ymarie, a Clayversity member, said all this much better than I. With her permission, here is her special summary of the Measure of a Man.


Is it the hip-hop singer who cries foul when he doesn't win? Or the pop-singer who came in second and was nothing but happy for the friend who won.

Is it the man who dances half-naked in semi-pornographic videos? Or the man who gently picks up a lady from her wheelchair to dance with her on stage.

Is it the man who yells at a child for crying? Or the man who sings softly to a child to calm her fears.

Is it the man who laments "Why me"? Or the man who asks "Why not?"

Is it the star who won't share the stage with anyone who might take the focus off him? Or the star who is excited to show off the talent of those he calls friends.

Is it the star who is three hours late, then can't understand why his fans are upset? Or the star who holds onto a stool for dear life so he wouldn't disappoint his fans.

Is it the man who tells the world how great he is? Or the man who gets embarrassed when others tell him how much he means to them.

Is it the man who owns 300 pairs of jeans, just because he can? Or the man who recycles clothes so as not to be wasteful.

Is it the man who demands to be waited on hand and foot? Or the man who believes in a life of service to others.

Is it the man who writes a memoir to brag about his accomplishments? Or the man who bared his soul about his early life in hopes it would help someone else.

Is it the man who blames others for his failings? Or the man who keeps trying until he succeeds.

Is it the man who holds a press conference to announce he is donating a new wing to the hospital? Or the man who quietly visits a sick child in the hospital, with only the family and a night nurse to witness it.

Is it the rap-star that begs the Arab oil-producing nations to give him a break because the gas for his private jet costs too much? Or the UNICEF Ambassador who travels to dangerous areas of the world at his own expense, to bring awareness to the deplorable conditions children face.

Is it the man who doesn't want to have to deal with fans? Or the man who lets his fans verbally abuse him, then quietly sings he will be right here waiting with open arms, if and when they are ready to come back.

Is it the man who won't take responsibility for the children he's fathered? Or the man who risked everything to be able to live an honest and open life for his son.

Is it the size of his ego? Or the size of his heart.

If you took all those other men and rolled them together, they still wouldn't measure up to 1/10th of the man Clay Aiken is.

Obama Inauguration Offers Hope

LovesClaysVoice chose Clay's
I Will Carry You to accompany her montage about the hope new US President Barack Obama brings to the nation and the entire world.

Spotlighted are photos from the Jan. 20 inaugural ceremony, parade, and balls. You can download the montage with this IWCY Sendspace.

President Barack Obama - I Will Carry You Montage

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


Other blogs covering TBAF's 2009 Golfing for Inclusion: Clay Aiken News Network and There Was a Man.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Clay Aiken Tackles Global Poverty

ON THEIR SIDE -- Fountaindawg's graphic about Clay Aiken's new blog echos the words of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." Photos by Nick Ysenburg, UNICEF.

Petitions President, Citizens of World

Singer Seeks Poverty Solutions

In his new blog "Believe in Zero," UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken petitioned President Barack Obama and citizens of the world to help conquer global poverty.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is proud to be a partner of ONE. ONE has mobilized millions of Americans to speak up about the importance of tackling global poverty – saving and improving lives around the world.

I’ve had a chance to see many wonderful children, full of laughter and hope, in even the poorest places around the world. And I’ve seen the incredible work of UNICEF to help those children and their families survive and thrive.

But I have also seen children sick and dying from lack of basic nutrition and medicines. And I cannot forget that despite UNICEF’s work, 25,000 children die every day, mostly from preventable causes. I believe that number should be
zero – no child dying unnecessarily.

So I am asking President Barack Obama to launch a
Presidential Initiative to Accelerate Child Survival. And I am asking YOU to join me, by signing a petition to the President.

You can read Clay's complete blog here.

ONE Mobilizes Support

ONE is a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization backed by more than two million people from around the globe and every walk of life who are committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

Cofounded by Bono, Bobby Shriver and other campaigners, and supported by Bob Geldof and other high profile activists, ONE is nonpartisan and works with activists from the left, right and center to mobilize public opinion in support of effective, proven initiatives that are delivering results: protecting families from preventable diseases like AIDS and malaria, putting kids in school, providing economic opportunity and stabilizing communities.

UNICEF Sets Zero Goal

Long an advocate of improving and saving the lives of children, UNICEF entreats all to adopt the "zero" goal.

At UNICEF, we believe in children. We believe deeply that every child - regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality or economic status - is equally deserving of a future. We believe that every child, not a percentage of children, should be afforded basic lifesaving vaccines, clean water, nutrition, protection from violence and a chance to survive to adulthood.

It all starts with child survival—ensuring that newborns, young children and their mothers have what they need to stay healthy and have the opportunity to grow up. Too many children don’t get that opportunity—every day, 25,000 children under the age of five die of preventable causes. They don’t have to die, but they do.

UNICEF believes it is possible to reach zero and encourages everyone to endorse the Presidential Initiative petition.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Featured in this clickable interlude are graphics from Clay's 2008 UNICEF trips to Somalia and Kenya. Artists include Amazing_CA, 1; Claystruck, 2; Fountaindawg, double clickable of lead graphic, 3; Ashes, 4; and MNmeesh, 5.

Golfing for Inclusion Supports TBAF

Golfing enthusiasts are packing bags, practicing swings, and preparing to travel to Palm Beach Gardens, FL, for Monday's 2nd Annual Golfing for Inclusion, fundraising project of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation.

Co-hosted by Clay Aiken and PGA professional Wayne Player, the event will feature a festive day of golf and a formal evening of extraordinary cuisine and entertainment by the singer.

For more information, this
TBAF page includes links for registration, reservations, and online auctions.

Co-founded in 2003 by Clay and Diane Bubel, TBAF seeks to bridge the gap that exists between young people with special needs and the world around them by supporting communities with inclusive programs and working to create awareness about the possibilities that inclusion can bring.

Greetings from Grandson Kai

For Kai's fan club members, who have been dropping significant hints that it was past time for him to compose or make an appearance in his grandmother's blog, here is our family's special 16-month-old.

Kai on the move!

Measuring 32 inches tall at his January checkup, grandson is on his way to being the giant in this family of height-challenged musicians. Perhaps one day he will play basketball for his grandmother's beloved Tar Heels.

Kai's vocabulary expands daily as does his inclination to investigate everything new. He loves to "help" his mother with housework and carries extra loads of laundry to the washing machine for her. He has his own collection of plastic blowls housed in the dishwasher to "clean" while his mother clears the kitchen sink.

His favorite perch is atop the dining room table because from there he can see everything that's going on. The adults finally accepted that, no matter what, this willful little guy would find a way to the top, so an accessible chair is conveniently left in his climbing path.

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

US, World Welcome the Obamas

The Obamas wave to those along inaugural parade route.

Era of New Beginnings

US, World Welcome the Obamas

An unprecedented 1.8 million people braving bone-chilling weather and waving a sea of American flags assembled on the National Mall in Washington, DC, while 38 million around the country and the world joined the celebration via telecast as Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States.

A roll call of American public servants participated in the extraordinary, ritualistic procedure in which the first African American president proclaimed a new era of individual and collective responsibility the cornerstone, price, and promise of citizenship. See CNN's Let Freedom Ring montage by Peter Turnley.

Reflecting a sense of history and the investment many feel they have in this new and very different president, the inaugural speech was also addressed to the global audience watching "from the grandest capitals to the small village in which my father was born."

THUMBS UP - Sasha shows her approval after
her father's speech. Her sister Malia continued
chronicling events with a digital camera.

My attempt to choose a favorite passage from President Obama's speech resulted in no less than four segments. How about you? The full transcript can be read here.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. [snip]

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. [snip]

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. [snip]

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

An interesting "morning after" link is ReadWriteWeb's Word Cloud Analysis of inaugural speeches by Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and Lincoln.

Right on schedule, a new White House website --
Change Has Come to America -- was rolled out at high noon Tuesday. Technically, President Obama became the leader of the country at the same time. However, the inagural ceremony ran late and he didn't take the oath of office until several minutes later.

INAUGURATION DAY: The clickable photos below present a capsule of Tuedays inaugural activities. Included are a panorama view of the Capitol, 1; the oath of office with the Lincoln Bible, 2; a collage by Fountaindawg commemorating the event's connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 3; Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill with President and Mrs. Obama, 4; and the First Couple dancing at the Neighborhood Ball, 5. (AP/Getty Photos)

Inauguration Resonates Worldwide

Following the inaugural speech, reports of joy and jubilation rolled in from Kenya and Indonesia where the new president has family ties to Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. World-wide celebrations are reflected in the slide show accompanying this article.

Global Headlines

For days, cable network hosts have quizzed individuals gathered in Washington to experience the phenomenon in person, "Why are you here?" To which a couple from Sweden replied, "We think Barack Obama brings back the meaning of what it's all about for the whole world. Yes, we can!"

Another exclaimed, "We're all going in the same direction, and we're going there together!"

Dancing to "At Last" sung by Beyonce, the First Couple took a spin around the floor at the Neighborhood Ball, the first of 10 on their schedule. Mrs. Obama's gown was created by 26-year-old designer Jason Wu.

Changing America Together

In brief remarks, President Obama said the Neighborhood Ball, which reaches out to residents of Washington, DC, signifies how we as Americans are bound together and best captures the spirit of the campaign. "Together, we are going to change America!"

Founded by TV producer/philanthropist Norman Lear, Born Again American is committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism. Check out the website and add your signature if you would like to recommit to the country.

On January 20, the new president made history. Wednesday he goes to work, symbolized in itispersonal's montage of Clay Aiken singing Weight of the World from his On My Way Here CD.

Barack Obama: Weight of the World

Here's to changing America together!


The Obamas

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Aiken Montage Honors Obamas

An Obama Love Story: Something About Us by Maplestik

'Renewing America's Promise'

Historic Inaugural Underway

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, the United States will inaugurate President-Elect Barack Obama, the first African American elected to the highest office in the land. As part of the celebration at one of 10 official inaugural balls that evening will be An Obama Love Story, a montage created by Maplestik with Clay Aiken singing "Something About Us."

The beautiful Something About Us montage, set to a track from Clay's On My Way Here album, had recorded 603,576 views by noon Saturday morning.
In the works for weeks, this is an honor for both the video maker and Clay, who sings the love song with such passion.

A week of inaugural festivities literally left the station Saturday morning with a 120-mile whistle stop train tour into Washington, DC, by President-Elect Obama, Vice-President Elect Joe Biden, and their families.

President-Elect Obama Waves from Train (AP).

Beginning in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the nation, the 2009 tour mirrors the 12-day train trip taken by President Abraham Lincoln from Springfield, IL, to the nation's Capitol in 1861 during which he gave 100 speeches along the way.

Theme of Inauguration Week 2009 is "Renewing America's Promise," underscoring the commitment by President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden to restore opportunity and possibility for all and re-establish America's standing as a beacon of hope around the world.

Overview of Inauguration Schedule

Saturday, Jan. 17: Whistle Stop Tour - President-Elect Obama, Vice President-Elect Biden and their families will travel by train to Washington, DC and will host events reflecting their national service initiative along the way in Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore. See Whistle Stop Tour here.

Sunday, Jan. 18: Inaugural Opening Concert - Kicking off Sunday's inaugural celebration will be a
star-studded concert at 2:30 p.m. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Performers include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder.

Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation.

Monday, Jan. 19: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- In keeping with the national day of service that annually honors Dr. King’s legacy, the Obama and Biden families will participate in activities dedicated to helping others in communities throughout the Washington, DC area.

In 2008, 5,000 service projects honored the life and achievements of Dr. King nationally. Already, the number for 2009 has doubled and is growing daily.

Other tributes to
Dr. King's legacy are choral concerts, including "Let Freedom Ring" at The Kennedy Center, and civil rights film festivals.

A NEW ERA - Vice President-Elect Joe Biden
and President-Elect Barack Obama

Tuesday, Jan. 20: Inauguration Day - Swearing-in ceremony, Inaugural Parade, and official Inaugural Balls.

The oath of office will be administered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, followed by the new president's inaugural address, parade, and balls and galas.

The 10 official balls to be attended by the Obamas and the Bidens include the Commander-in-Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum; the Youth Inaugural Ball at the Washington Hilton; Eastern Inaugural Ball at Union Station, and the Southern Inaugural Ball (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, and TX) at the National Guard Armory.

Six will take place at the Washington Convention Center, including the first ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, Obama Home States Inaugural Ball (Illinois and Hawaii), Biden Home States Inaugural Ball (Delaware and Pennsylvania), Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball (MD, VA, DC, NY, NJ, and WV), Midwest Inaugural Ball (NW. KS, IN, IA, MI, MN, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI, and MO), and Western Inaugural Ball (AK, CA, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY, AZ, CO, NV, NM, UT, OK, GUAM/AS).

More information on the official balls and legions of other
celebratory events can be read here.

No One as Irish as Barack Obama

Global Excitement for Inauguration

The enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the Obama inauguration has gone global, parts of which will be televised. Live streaming is available on most networks and cable channels, and large screen viewing has been scheduled for a variety of venues.

Well-known throughout the world is President-Elect Obama’s
multicultural heritage. Little known, however, is his connection to Ireland; but the song by Hardy Drew recorded by the Corrigan Brothers should help fill in the blanks. Link to concert and animated versions on YouTube.

The president-elect has personally invited the Corrigan Brothers to perform the O'Bama song at the inauguration. They will entertain on the Irish American float in Tuesday's parade and also at an official party.

Screen cap links to animated montage.

No One as Irish as Barack Obama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

You don't believe me, I hear you say
But Barack's as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew
He's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too
He's in the white house, He took his chance
Now let's see Barack do Riverdance

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and cork to old Donegal
Let's hear it for Barack from old moneygall
From the lakes if Killarney to old Connemara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama
From the old blarney stone to the great hill of Tara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

2008 the white house is green,
They're cheering in Mayo and in Skibereen.
The Irish in Kenya, and in Yokahama,
Are cheering for President Barack O'Bama

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

The Hockey Mom's gone, and so is McCain
They are cheering in Texas and in Borrisokane,
In Moneygall town, the greatest of drama,
or our Famous president Barack O'Bama

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

The great Stephen Neill, a great man of God,
He proved that Barack was from the Auld Sod
They came by bus and they came by car,
To celebrate Barack in Ollie Hayes's Bar

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama.

President-Elect Barack Obama (Associated Press).

Despite the frigid temperatures along the Whistle Stop and in Washington, DC, the inauguration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden as this country's leaders promises to be the most attended and most watched in history.

Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk.
Martin Luther King walked so that Barack Obama could run.
Barack Obama ran so that all children could fly.
-- from Daily Kos

Happy "new beginnings" to the USA!


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama Presidency Fulfills King's Dream

A NATION REMEMBERS -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presents his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 1963. The life and legacy of Dr. King, who would have been 80 on Jan. 15, will be commemorated Monday, Jan. 19. (AP Photo)

'I Have a Dream'

Country Honors Legacy of MLK

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, Jan. 19, this nation commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the 1960's and, 39 years after his death, still a symbolic force in the ongoing struggles toward fulfillment of his famous speech: freedom, equality, justice, dignity, respect for human beings of all ages, races, and backgrounds.

For the full text and video of Dr. King's oratory, see I Have a Dream.

Inauguration Magnifies King's Influence

This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day bears added significance as it precedes the day when Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, will be inaugurated on the steps of the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will memorialize Dr. King on Monday by participating in service projects in their communities. They will honor his legacy of tolerance, peace, and equality by serving community needs and making the holiday “a day on, not a day off.”

Citizens in every state will join together to tutor children, build homes, clean parks, paint classrooms, deliver meals, and perform countless other acts of service. For more information, see Martin Luther King Day.

Participation in the day of service has grown steadily since 1994 when Congress passed legislation encouraging Americans to celebrate the King holiday in this manner, reflecting the man's life and teachings.

There are countless Internet links for the Life and Teachings of Dr. King, who would have been 80 years old Thursday, Jan. 15, had he lived. In 1968, his plans for a Poor People's March to Washington were interrupted for a trip to Memphis, TN, in support of striking sanitation workers. Also, see Wikipedia.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, a career criminal, as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Often quoted are these poignant words from his speech in Detroit five years earlier:

I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

Just Four Blocks Away

As my junior year at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC, came to a close in May 1960, I was elected editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, was already writing a teen column for the Star-News Newspapers, and had just been awarded a scholarship to Northwestern University's National High School Institute in Journalism.

My parents allowed me to ride a bus from Wilmington to Evanston, IL, which is another blog in itself. Upon arriving on the Northwestern campus, I located my dorm room and began meeting new friends from throughout the country. When I told a girl my hometown, she said, "There's another girl on this hall from Wilmington, too."

That's how I met Phyllis Brown, also a high school senior and editor-in-chief elect of her newspaper. Phyllis attended all-black Williston High School just four blocks away from NHHS, which at the time was all-white.

That summer Phyllis and I became fast friends. Like all southerners at the summer institute, we were asked to demonstrate our accents time and again. With other young journalists, we participated in and wrote about a variety of events, some concocted by the faculty and some real. We toured the Chicago Tribune offices and attended the Democratic National Convention where John F. Kennedy was nominated for the presidency.

Staying in Touch

When we returned home from the six-week institute, Phyllis and I stayed in touch throughout our senior year and even on college breaks. My teen column highlighted NHHS happenings, featured stories about various students, and included a brief gossip section in which I often inserted special shout-outs of "hello" or "congratulations" to Phyllis.

That December my mother and I attended a beautiful ceremony during which my friend and several girls her age were inducted into a special sorority.

Phyllis attended Howard University, and I left in the fall for St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg. A few years later our high schools merged, but not without vicious racial riots and demonstrations. We lost contact when I married and moved to Texas.

How could two 17-year-old girls who lived within five miles of each other and attended school four blocks apart not meet until they traveled to a university campus 600 miles away from home? Separate schools were the norm throughout the South; but change was in the air, as the timeline below indicates.

Harsh Lesson in Discrimination

Mr. Caro, a drummer in the 82nd Airborne Division Band at Fort Bragg during 1963-64, also played in one of the most popular combos in eastern NC -- The House Rockers or The Components, depending on the type gig booked.

The band played the hottest music of the day -- Green Onions, Walking the Dog, Puff the Magic Dragon, Twist and Shout -- for redneck armories, black and white high school proms, country club debutante balls, you name it.

When the white Texas drummer joined the all-black combo, he was slapped with a harsh education in segregation just about the same time that Dr. King was delivering the now famous I Have a Dream speech.

Enroute to a gig, the band members decided to stop for hamburgers. The drummer didn't believe his musician friends when they told him he would have to place their order and why. The belligerent owner not only wouldn't serve the musicians, but Mr. Caro was told in no uncertain, unprintable terms where he could go, too.

This was his first personal experience with the despicable manner in which African-Americans were treated in the South. He remembers being extremely furious and that his fellow band members had to calm him down.

During a debutante ball in a local country club, Mr. Caro noticed a chaperone gradually inching her way around the room towards the band. She had been staring at the drummer throughout the 45-minute set. During a break by the band, she snuck up to him and asked, "How can you stand to play with this, this ... all black group?"

Never at a loss for snark, Mr. Caro looked the woman in the eye and drawled, "Well, 'mam, I'm only passing for white."

Changes in the Air

As shown in the partial Civil Rights Timeline below, during these same years (1960 - 64), history was being made with the Sit-In Movement, which originated in Greensboro; the Freedom Rides; Dr. King's speeches, projects, nonviolent marches; and subsequent civil rights legislation.

The battles for equality led by Dr. King -- and the legions of other men, women, and children before and since -- are to be celebrated and remembered on this special day.

Civil Rights Timeline

1865: 13th Amendment outlaws slavery.

1870: 15th Amendment establishes the right of black males to vote.

1920: 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote.

5-17-54: The Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS., unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

12-1-55: Rosa Parks refuses to change seats on a Montgomery, AL, bus.

Greensboro Woolworth's 1960 Sit-In

2-1-60: Four NC A&T students launch the Greensboro Sit-Ins at the Elm Street Woolworth's. After purchasing school supplies, they approach the lunch counter and order coffee at 4:30 p.m. Though refused service, they remain in their seats until closing. The next day 25 participate in the sit-in, the following day 63.

Within two months, the Sit-In Movement spreads to 54 cities in nine states. Student sit-ins would be effective throughout the Deep South in integrating parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, and other public facilities.

Greensboro Museum's Woolworth Exhibit in the Smithsonian

7-25-60: The first black eat a meal, sitting down, at Woolworth's in Greensboro. After one week, 300 blacks had been customers. The Woolworth's counter is on display at the Smithsonian Institute as a reminder that we never forget from where we have come as a country.

1961: Integrated groups of protesters join Freedom Rides on buses across the South to protest segregation.

1963: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

1964: Congress passes Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing segregation in public accommodations and discrimination in education and employment. Dr. King receives Nobel Peace Prize.

1965: Congress passes Voting Rights Act of 1965. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968: Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN, at the age of 39.

1983: Congress passes and President Reagan signs legislation creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be celebrated on the third Monday of January.

1986: Federal Martin Luther King holiday is first celebrated.

Keeping the Dream Alive

Our society is changing with younger generations on a much faster track toward a new social order than their parents and grandparents. Excerpts from middle school student essays honoring Dr. King's legacy -- "United for the Common Good" -- can be read in this Seattle Times article.

On Sunday's "Meet the Press," comedian Bill Cosby described his feelings when voting for Barack Obama, the first African American president. Accompanying him into the voting booth were pictures of his late father, mother, and brother James. "I pulled the curtain, took out their pictures, and said, 'And now we're going to vote.'"

He quickly added, "I only voted once ... and their pictures were out. Then I put them back in my pocket and opened the curtain. And it was wonderful."

On Jan. 19, 2009, the United States honors Dr. King and the generations who paved the way for the historic inauguration we celebrate on Jan. 20.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! Here's to a memorable week, America!


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