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If national elections were contested via adolescent screeching, the Jonas Brothers would be America’s first (and cutest!) sibling co-presidents. Without Barack Obama in attendance at Monday night’s “Kids’ Inaugural: We Are the Future” concert at D.C.’s Verizon Center, the Jonas boys filled the power vacuum with a disciplined campaign of eyelash fluttering and power sliding. Other objects of preteen acclimation, from highest- to lowest-pitched shriek: Michelle Obama, Usher, Miley Cyrus, High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu, “the troops,” Bow Wow, a passel of cannon-propelled T-shirts of unknown design, Demi Lovato, and Dr. Jill Biden, who earns last place by making the totally mortifying declaration that her four granddaughters make her “a lucky nana.” Come on, Grandma!
Judging by their positions on the bill at “We Are the Future” and “We Are One,” closing act the Jonas Brothers are the High School Musical generation’s U2, while opener Miley Cyrus is Bruce Springsteen. Last night, however, Cyrus appeared to be going through her “Dylan goes pubescent” phase, exchanging a red ball gown for a “Times They Are A-Changing” T-shirt after her opening number. “Girls, I know you’ve got to be awfully proud of your dad, and so am I,” the Hannah Montana star shouted, pausing her set to chat with Sasha and Malia Obama. “So I’m going to bring my dad out to join the fun.” While this comparison is a bit of a stretch—Barack Obama was just elected president; Billy Ray Cyrus cut off his mullet and grew a soul patch—the older Cyrus does appear regularly on the Disney Channel. Screeching ensued.
For the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the kids’ concert is the embodiment of this week’s animating principle: Leave no demographic behind. Aside from newborns and emo teens, it’s hard to find a group that’s not being courted aggressively. Obama’s train ride to Washington brought smiles to the geezers, James Taylor secured the boomers, the inauguration itself is for earnest twentysomethings, and the balls give the idle rich a rare chance to wear their top hats.
Michelle Obama, like most every speaker on this night, knows how to butter up her audience. (The one exception: George Lopez, who delights Speedy Gonzales and nobody else with a joke about how a hypothetical Latino president will provide every American with a free churro.) Obama assured the children that they are our future, that they will lead the way, that their laughter will remind us of how we used to be. After thanking the military for keeping the nation safe, she pointed out that “you don’t need a uniform to serve this country.” Kids can help out, too, Obama said, by visiting an elderly person or picking up trash. While this unfortunate parallelism might not have gone over at an AARP rally, the under-10 camp responded with a deeply felt “Woooooooo!”
With the short speeches mostly a respite to allow Cyrus to change outfits, the evening felt like the world’s schmanciest birthday party. Malia and Sasha—in the front row, flanked by Mom and Grandma—received a procession of well-wishers and dignitaries. The girls took turns snapping photos with a digital camera, getting serenaded by Corbin Bleu, and bouncing up and down un-self-consciously to the Jonas Brothers. During the finale, they even got to climb up onstage with Kevin, Joe, and Nick as confetti poured from the ceiling. For a couple of preteen girls, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly top this. Watching your dad get sworn in as president can’t be bad, but Inauguration Day is missing a certain something: T-shirt cannons.