MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- Amid the sea of celebrities who participated in President Joe Biden's inauguration, a Richmond-area man stood tall.
Anthony Gaskin made international headlines in late 2020 after a CBS 6 Facebook post about him went viral, seen by more than 40,000,000 people.
Gaskin is a UPS driver who made such a positive impact in his community, neighbors in Midlothian lined the streets in a show of appreciation for his good work.
During Wednesday night's "Celebrating America” special, Gaskin was chosen to represent all the frontlne workers working through the pandemic.
Gaskin introduced Jon Bon Jovi who performed in the special.
Bruce Springsteen launched the 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.”
Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land” over the past few years. "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.
Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honor of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles.
A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial.
The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to - what else? - “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry.
The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes.
The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities.
Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.