Monday, January 19, 2009



It will be a truly distinctive moment in American history - the inauguration of the first black President of the United States, celebrated one day after the commemoration of the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. Barack Obama clearly feels a real connection with Abraham Lincoln, but I believe the timing of his inauguration and the obvious parallels in their influence on America will always somehow associate Obama with King. Each of these men has demonstrated the rare gift of being able to cause togetherness and meaningful commitment among the American people. It is akin to what we felt in the months after 9/11, but then there was no strong leader to inspire a sense of long-lasting intimacy among us. Now there is.

The coming together of the American people after so many years of deep fragmentation is a wonder in America right now. Sometimes, the most significant moments in our history cause art to emerge, as well. Witness the Works Progress Administration (WPA) artistry during the Great Depression (example at right). On numerous occasions historians have highlighted the relationship between social change or upheaval with the emergence of distinctive art forms. With that in mind, if you have not heard the name Shepard Fairey yet, you surely will. Fairey is the artist who created the now iconic HOPE posters so pervasive during the Obama campaign (left). Fairey also created the header art you see at the top of this piece.

I am not an art critic. But I am a great audience. And what I see, from out here is a real commonality between much of the WPA art and works by street artists like Fairey. They are both what you could call populist art. In both we see the real daily dreams and struggles of American men and women. On some level, no matter what your politics are, you have to step back and appreciate America's heart and soul starting to show itself again. We were neutralized for eight years. A little spirit couldn't hurt us about now.

It is that spirit that moved music producer David Foster to team with musician to write America's Song just days before the inauguration. It was reportedly easy to engage the participation of Faith Hill, Mary J. Blige, Bono and Seal to perform the song, first on the January 19 episode of our holy St. Oprah of Chicago's show. Like much of the WPA art and Fairey's works, America's Song is clean, straightforward and elegant.

Now, pump up the volume, go full screen and enjoy this shiny, new artistic collaboration:

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