Kate and I attended the opening ceremonies for Barack Obama’s inauguration last night — perched up in the press section right next to the stage, with a great view of, among other things, the first family.

You can read all about the event on numerous other sites. As you would expect, it was a spectacle, and like so much else in the Obama campaign, it treaded the razor’s edge between absurd and inspiring.

There was little specifically green in it, aside from Jack Black (!?) reading inspirational quotes from Theodore Roosevelt about national parks. It was difficult to take too seriously, though, because Jack Black is funny even when he’s not trying to be. (So was Steven Carell.)

There are a few memories that I’ll take with me, though:

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  • Watching Sasha and Malia Obama whisper to each other, giggle, snuggle their parents, and take pictures of the proceedings with a little digital camera. Surrounded as I was by the cynical press corps, it was nice to know at least someone else hadn’t lost their capacity for wonder and excitement. Those little girls are going to have America in the palm of their hand.
  • Watching Pete Seeger sing "This Land Is Your Land," including the subversive middle verses that are so often left out. It was a moment of real power, for him and anyone familiar with Seeger’s history. As he played, behind me I heard David Corn of Mother Jones say to a friend, "We won. It took a while, but we finally won."
  • Watching Shakira struggling to behave in a dignified manner, despite her natural inclination to shake her ass. Several times I saw her kind of catch herself and mute it a little. What could she do? It’s made for shaking.
  • Hearing Bono, during a stirring rendition of "Pride In the Name of Love" say, "It’s not just an American dream. It’s an Irish dream. A European dream. An African dream. It’s an Israeli dream." Long, pregnant pause. "And it’s a Palestinian dream!"
  • Hearing Mellencamp’s "Little Pink Houses," so flattened by endless repetition on classic rock radio, take on new power in a setting where its sentiment meant something.
  • Seeing Biden give one of the weirdest, most off-pitch speeches I’ve ever heard, and then, amazingly, Obama himself deliver a flat, boring speech — the only less-than-stellar speech I’ve ever seen or heard him give.
  • Watching Obama grin from ear to ear and bob his head as will.i.am rapped about peace and love. That’s change I can believe in.

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