How Kelly Clarkson Took Washington, D.C.

09/13/2002 at 12:05 PM EDT

"American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson kept up her busy schedule this week, PEOPLE reports, stopping in Washington, D.C., where she visited sick children and sang the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 11.

Clarkson's Washington debut (her loud Lincoln Memorial finale, "God Bless America," was drowned out by an even louder children's choir) occurred as planned despite earlier news articles suggesting that she might withdraw due to controversy over whether or not the "American Idol" appearance was in poor taste.

In reaction, Clarkson, 20, kept her visit low-key, canceling some previously scheduled interviews.

While in Washington with her father, Clarkson also took a private tour of the White House Tuesday evening, and then caught up on some sleep at her hotel.

Before the Lincoln Memorial rally, she visited the Children's National Medical Center, where an event sponsored by the Champions of Hope was hosted by "Lord of the Rings" actor Sean Astin.

"It's great to see a sense of community," Astin, 31, tells PEOPLE, "a sense of givingness and people feeling like they had a place to belong in this moment in time."

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