Obama inaugurated as U.S. president – but not without a little fanfare…

It’s almost a surreal experience to watch Obama’s inauguration from my apartment in France. Perhaps no more surreal than that guy in row 3,654 in D.C., but surreal nonetheless. With all this fanfare, pomp and circumstance, I am simultaneously filled with emotion that yes, we did, and with a feeling of oh my gawwwwd. Is all this really necessary?

The enormous crowds, the 24-hour coverage, the hand-held flags constantly waving – journalists are calling this “Obama-stock.” Even Dustin Hoffman got a special invite to the event. France is getting in on the fun, with several of the major news channels devoting this entire day to the Obama-love. I don’t remember much about Bush’s inauguration, but I doubt it had a lot in common with this one, besides that little hand-on-the-bible part.

Speaking of which, the religious aspect of the U.S. presidential inaugurations continue to shock me. I thought we had a separation of church and state in America. Why, then, is Pastor Rick Warren leading millions of people in prayer? Even Obama referred to the scripture in his address, signing off with the traditional “God Bless America.” Yes, I know, speaking about God on this day is part and parcel for the event, but I’m just saying – the international press is going to have a field day. Sarkozy would get laughed off the podium for talking about Jesus in front of the French public.

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Obama’s inauguration was a fine example of the fact that when America does anything, it does it big. Masses of Americans flew, drove and bussed it to Washington to witness history, with a turnout estimated at more than one million. Once the festivities got rolling, everything was done on a Hollywood scale: The Diva of Soul Aretha Franklin singing “My Country Tis of Thee,” an orchestral piece by musical sensations Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, a luscious poem by Elizabeth Alexander, a feisty and humerous benediction by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery of Atlanta, and more. There was even a parade following the luncheon for the president and his 200 invited guests, which followed the hour-long inauguration.

And don’t forget about the news coverage leading up to and following the event, which is bound to keep me up into the night. I’m already glued to CNN to see whether Soledad O’Brien will beat out Wolf Blizter for air-time (Didn’t you want to know that Obama’s penmanship was “excellent?”).

I think the only person who remembered why we were here today was President Obama. His gleaming white smile came and went briefly but was otherwised replaced by a serious look and tone to show the world that he was ready to get down to business. As he said: “Getting down to the work of re-making America.” He appealed to the international community, the Muslim world and our “friends and foes,” while still putting up a hard fight against terrorism. “We can no longer regard the suffering from outside our borders with indifference,” he stated.

Obama’s greatest appeal was to the American people themselves. He asked us to turn to our neighbors in need to offer help, or to nurture a child, for example. He reiterated that this presidency is not about him, but about us. And if we are going to follow Obama on this promise, then we’ve got to walk with him and do our part. As he said, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world…”

As millions of tiny flags waved in the air, held up by millions of happy hands, history was made, opening the way for Obama to make his mark as president. In the words of Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, this is a moment “when brown can stick around.”

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6 responses to “Obama inaugurated as U.S. president – but not without a little fanfare…

  1. I loved all the events of the Obama Inauguration and I hope the best for Obama. God-speed

    As the new admininstration takes power in Washington and the promise of “change” is in the air, we have to ask ourselves: when-oh-when is it coming? The New York Times reports the following : ” On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama offered a pledge that electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to ‘end the war’ in Iraq. But as he moves closer to the White House, President – Elect Obama is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of Americhem troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.”
    The preparations for an Afgan surge have been long in the making, and in this arena Obama will take up where Bush left off, and then some. Some kind of military operation into Pakistan is a virtual certanity, the only question is one of scale.

    The man next to Obama’s ear is Rahm Emanuel. His Chief of Staff. A war hawk. What did Rahm Emanuel do in Israel in the 91 First Gulf War. He served in the Israel Defense Forces
    in Israels northern bases until the war ended. This connection has already angered the middle east.

    Last week, the Pennsylvania National Guard 28th division left for Iraq to serve a mimimum of 1 year. These guys are weekend soldiers. Two of the men worked next to me in my office , so I am very concerned.

  2. I turned the TV on first thing in the morning yesterday and left it on well into the night. I couldn’t disagree more about the supposed lavishness of the day. The people who thronged to DC came of their own volition, the desire to be a part of the most historical moment of our generation. According to MSNBC reporting there were no additional events added to the day that are not a usual part of Inauguration Day. And in fact, there were people who set up a special inaugural ball for the disadvantaged, complete with donated transportation, tuxs, gowns and shoes, not to mention the entire ball itself was a donation from one man.

    I felt an incredible wave of change throughout the entire day. I believe that this man, although not loved by everyone (who is?), will finally rouse this country out of its apathy and ignorance. By the presence of the millions in DC, the millions who viewed it on TV, I can’t help thinking that this sentiment is clearly on the minds of millions of people.

  3. Andrew Woodall

    I confess I watched it too, the difference between Bush’s and yesterdays event was huge.

  4. I think that it was a great moment in history indeed but wasn’t it a bit too much? I mean all the money spent for this day only (though it will go down in history for sure!)… Don’t get me wrong, I heart Obama! 😉

  5. The inauguration ceremony // after party looked like quite a get-together — i’m sorry i missed it

  6. Rev. Joseph E. Lowery delivered the best speech of the day.

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