With applause, standing ovations, a few salutes, and even tears, McGill students packed into a crowded Gert’s bar yesterday morning to watch as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, inches from the television screen, the crowd became silent as the moment drew near. In Washington, there was prayer, performance, and anxiety as President Barack Obama stumbled through the oath.
Visibly moved, Eby Heller from Chicago was overwhelmed and happy.
“It means there is a little bit of hope. He knows he has a long, hard road ahead of him. I hope that he respects himself as a human being, his family, and from there he will do good work.”
The feeling of hope in the room was so infectious that Eva-Queen Ngayap from Toronto couldn’t help but join Aretha Franklin in a chorus of “Freedom Ring.”
“I am expecting a breath of fresh air, a different stance, a new perspective and attitude,” Ngayap said.
“This is history and we all know it. Everyone is cherishing this moment.”
The Gert’s crowd fell silent as attention turned toward President Obama’s inauguration speech. Obama’s rather solemn words muted the celebration, as he spoke frankly to both Americans and the world about the challenges ahead.
Samantha Perera from Florida commented, “I feel like we are in really dark times, not only as a nation but as a world. Listening to Obama talk gives me hope that we will prevail, and that America will mean something in the end.”
There was, however, some skepticism.
“As a European, we’ve detested Bush from the start. And as much as we’d like to believe Obama will bring change, we are a little bit weary. We will give it a few months before we believe in Obama like Americans do,” one student who asked to remain anonymous said.
If they weren’t already believers, though, many in the Gert’s crowd walked away wanting to hope that the coming presidency will be as significant as it is symbolic.