Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama And First Lady Celebrate At Inaugural Balls, Pay Tribute To Armed Forces

Mrs. Obama again selects Jason Wu as her inaugural gown designer...
 UPDATE: The White House after-party was filled with celebs...
About 40,000 revelers filled every hall in the Washington Convention Center on Monday night, celebrating President Obama's second inauguration at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball and The Inaugural Ball.  The man of the hour arrived with First Lady Michelle Obama at 8:48 PM, and they made their first appearance of the night at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball about a half hour later, where the President, cald in white tie, paid tribute to America's armed forces.

"This little party is just another way to say something we can never say enough:  Thank you," President Obama said to the crowd, many of whom wore dress uniform.  "Thank you for volunteering.  Thank you for stepping up.  Thank you for keeping us strong.  Thank you for always making us proud.  I have no greater honor than being your Commander-in-Chief."

Mrs. Obama re-anointed American designer Jason Wu by selecting him as her couturier, as she did for the first inaugural in 2009, shooting the then-unknown to fame.  Tonight's gown was a custom-made, ruby colored chiffon and velvet gown, the White House said.   Mrs. Obama also wore "a handmade diamond embellished ring" by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald.  Her now-famous shaggy bangs hairdo was in soft curls, and her shoes were by Jimmy Choo.

The First Lady's "outfit and accompanying accessories will go to the National Archives," the White House said.  Mr. Obama, who had complimented his wife at the Inaugural Luncheon earlier on Monday, repeated his praise as he introduced her at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball.

"I said today at the lunch over at the Congress that some may dispute the quality of our President, but nobody disputes the quality of our First Lady," President  Obama said, to cheers and applause.

"She inspires me every day.  She makes me a better man and a better President.  The fact that she is so devoted to taking care of our troops and our military families is just one more sign of her extraordinary love and grace and strength.  I'm just lucky to have her."

Guest at the military Ball were the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki, active service members, veterans, Wounded Warriors, Medal of Honor recipients from all branches of the service and their families, Tuskegee Airmen, and Gold Star families.  Before dancing with his wife, the President hailed the US military as the best in the world, and pledged his continued support for returning veterans.  He also spoke by livestream to a group of active duty service members in Kandahar before the dancing began.

"It’s because of you that with honor we were able to end the war in Iraq.  Because of you that we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden," President Obama told the crowd.   "Because of you that it’s even possible to give Afghans a chance to determine their own destiny.  We are going forward, and we’ll keep our military the finest fighting force that the world has ever known."

Mrs. Obama's Jimmy Choos were clearly made for dancing:  The President and First Lady had their first dance at 9:21 PM as Jennifer Hudson serenaded them with Al Green's Let's Stay Together.  They sang along with Hudson as they danced, and waved at the crowd; hundreds of guests held cell phones aloft to record history. 

After, Mrs. Obama wrote "Just danced to "Let's Stay Together" with the love of my life and the President of the United States. I’m so proud of Barack. –mo," on her @FLOTUS twitter account.

For the second dance of the evening, President Obama partnered with Staff Sergeant Bria D. Nelson of the Air Force, and the First Lady was led around the stage by Gunnery Sergeant Timothy D. Easterling of the Marine Corps (above).

They were chosen by senior enlisted leaders from the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, based on factors including combat experience and volunteer efforts, the White House said.  The First Couple chatted with their partners as they danced, and gave them kisses on the cheek when it was over.   Ace of Cakes celebrity baker Duff Goldman created a huge cake for the Commander-in-Chief's ball, but the First Couple were not spotted anywhere near it.

Then it was on to the Inaugural Ball at 9:55 PM, where Hudson magically reappeared and the Obamas took to the stage for their third dance of the evening, dancing to the same song as for their first dance.   The President made no remarks, simply holding his wife's hand and waving to the thrilled crowd.   First Grandmother Marian Robinson and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett were spotted close to the stage, looking on.  Smokey Robinson took the stage as the Obamas finished their dance, and departed to a chorus of excited screaming.

In another hall, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden had their first dance, as Jamie Foxx accompanied himself on piano and crooned I Can't Stop Loving You.  Dr. Biden wore a blue gown with a cowl neckline and a sash around the waist.  The Second Couple kissed as they danced.  The Vice President later danced with Army Staff Sergeant Keesha Nicole Dentino, while Dr. Jill Biden danced with Petty Officer Patrick Figueroa of the Navy (above).

Other performers at the Balls included Alicia Keys, who thrilled the crowd by changing the words of her hit Girl On Fire to "Obama is on fire."  Chris Cornell, fun., Stevie Wonder, Marc Anthony, and Sound Garden were all scheduled to perform, too.

After a day full of action that began early in the morning, the President and Mrs. Obama were in the motorcade and rolling back to the White House by 10:05 PM, and arrived home at 10:12 PM.

Tuesday finishes the inaugural celebration, with a prayer service at the National Cathedral in the morning.  In the evening, the President and Mrs. Obama will attend the Staff Inaugural Ball, also at the Convention Center, where a 500-pound cake from Eli's Cheesecake Company in Chicago awaits.  The final event of the President's second inauguration is designed to thank all the staff and volunteers who worked on the campaigns.

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*Photos by AP/pool; last photo by Presidential Inaugural Committee