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Elation, amazement, overwhelmed and speechless were just some of the words people used to describe what they were witnessing on the large screens at Paris’ City Hall.
“We cannot contain ourselves! Can you believe it? Can you believe it? Can you believe it?” Jean Carole Carpenter repeated over and over to anyone within earshot upon seeing Barack Obama step onto the stage for the first time before being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. “There’s a change going on in the hearts and minds of the people of America.”
Carpenter was celebrating with about 1,200 other guests of all political persuasions per a special invitation from the mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, who was joined on stage to offer some welcome remarks by the outgoing ambassador, Craig Roberts Stapleton. Organizers said after the event that they had made special efforts to reach out to Republicans who wanted join the celebration too. While some guests set aside decorum and shouted their joy as soon as Obama began reciting his oath, others, like Melinda Herron, were tearful and reflective. She said she was thinking about race-related grievances her forefathers had endured.
The official party was the first stop for many who said they had other celebrations to attend throughout the city, some organized at American bars, Irish pubs and even a popular nightclub on the Champs Elysees.
“It’s amazing for us who live in France to be proud of America again,” said Sally Williams-Allen, a higher education consultant who has lived abroad for the last 30 years. "He’s going to take an interest in our role in the world.”
Williams-Allen said with the Bush administration, “our values were really negated.”
Randi Deguilhem, who lives in Aix-en-Provence, stressed that she wanted Obama to “go beyond the status quo” on issues like Iraq and the Middle East. Audrey Stewart, a commercial engineer who has lived in Paris for about 20 years, could only be amazed by what she described as America “descending into hell and then rising up out of it.”
“A moment in history has arrived,” Stewart said. “It’s very exciting in my lifetime.”
A member of the French press couldn’t help mutter under his breath “au revoir Bush” while watching Executive One take off with the Bushes, a symbolic turning of the page.
About 1,200 people gathered to watch Obama’s swearing in ceremony on large screens at Paris’ City Hall. An unidentified woman in the crowd waves a flag. (Mildrade Cherfils/GlobalPost)
Maria Laloux throws her arms into the air and shouts with joy as she watches Obama’s swearing in (Mildrade Cherfils/GlobalPost)
The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe (center), makes his way through a crowd after welcoming about 1,200 guests gathered at Paris' City Hall. Connie Borde (right), vice-chairwoman of Democrats Abroad, France, is in the background. (Mildrade Cherfils/GlobalPost)
Barack Obama’s inauguration is front page news on Paris newsstands in January 2009. (Mildrade Cherfils/GlobalPost)