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Swearing-in ceremony brings cheers and tears as Obama takes office

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By Adrienne Reaves-Taylor


Editor’s note: Adrienne Reaves-Taylor, the designer/production coordinator at Virginia Business, is covering the inauguration at the Capitol.

Adrienne Reaves-Taylor

It started way off in the distance, before Barack Obama even got to the stage.  Then it moved to the front until everyone was chanting “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma.” All they had to do was show his motorcade on the jumbotrons, and people stood up and cheered. They cheered every time they got a glimpse of him. It was like the second coming or something. 

When they showed Michelle Obama and the girls, everyone was elated. As they showed her walking through the building to get to the platform, people cheered. I’m talking a standing ovation. 

Then Joseph Biden came out to take his oath, and people got quiet. They wanted to hear every word.  When he finished, the whole crowd got up and cheered. 

I videotaped Obama taking the oath of office and giving his speech. It was so crowded,  people kept bumping into me while I was taping. Obama appeared to chuckle when he and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts became crossed-up on the oath. 

Mood of the crowd

The mood of the crowd was adoring. I mean for all of them —  for Biden, his wife, especially for Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and their daughters. They represent change.  People that I talked to said they are ready for a new administration, for a change in leadership in this country. To see something and someone different.  Several people said they have the courage to imagine a better life for themselves and their children. I know I do. I have the courage to think my son could be president one day.

That’s something so many African-Americans brought up while I’ve been here. Growing up, your mom and dad told you that you could be anything you wanted to be. But if you wanted to be president, you’d think, “No ,that’s wrong, because you have to be white to be president, because all the presidents before have been white.” Now everyone is seeing something different, and the world is ready. I don’t think this could have happened 20 years ago. Things are in such terrible shape right now that people are ready to believe that we can do better.

Personal emotions

Several times, I was so moved that I couldn’t speak.  I cried like a baby.  I felt the tears were going to freeze on my face … I know my mom and my grandmother would have done anything to be here. They will be looking to me to give a firsthand account.  It’s exciting, because I know exactly where I was when Obama took the oath and what I was feeling.  I was looking right at him . I wasn’t looking at a television screen. I was looking at his face, his lips moving. That is something that you cannot forget. I will remember this day for the rest of my life.

The speech

Obama’s speech was well received.  There was not a noise in the audience. The only time you heard a noise was when people cheered at something he said.  You didn’t hear rustling. You didn’t even see movement until Obama opened his mouth. They were watching intently everything he was saying. They were capturing it all.

For me, the most moving part was when he talked about his father. That man couldn’t even sit at a diner in some cities in the early 1960s, and now his son is the leader of the free world?  That to me is profound because it shows how far we’ve come — not as a nation, but as a world. The world is changing. 

When he finished, people started leaving. I felt bad for the woman reading the poetry, because it seemed rude. But I know why. People had been standing around since 3 a.m. They saw what they came to see. They came to see Obama take his oath, make his speech and they were ready to go.

Rubbing elbows with the famous

On the way out, they wouldn’t let us go out the same way we came in. I walked out with Tony Dungy,  the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. I was surprised to see him walk out with the regular folk. I didn’t talk with him. Didn’t need too.  It had already been a such a victorious day.


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