With hundreds of Elis looking on in Washington, and many more gathered in dining halls and common rooms across Yale’s campus, Barack Obama was inaugurated today as the 44th president of the United States of America.
Speaking in front of millions of Americans in Washington, the 47-year-old Obama acknowledged the challenges before him as he begins his presidency in a time of economic turmoil and global warfare.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,” said Obama, the nation’s first black president.
While the speech included a requisite word of thanks to his predecessor, Obama made clear his disagreements with the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush ’68. But on a frigid Washington Tuesday, Obama spent more time looking forward than backward.
Thousands of college students were in attendance — including hundreds of Elis who skipped classes Tuesday to travel to the capital — and Obama told them and everyone else huddled together on the National Mall that “starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Obama did not give much by way of specifics in the speech, but he did call for “bold and swift” government action to address the economic crisis. He also reaffirmed his commitment to improving relations between America and the rest of the world.
“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply,” Obama said to rousing applause. “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”
Amid a carefully orchestrated inauguration, though, one important formality did not go precisely as planned. The oath of office, administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., is meant to be just 35 words but took a few more as Roberts and Obama stumbled through their script.
That oath came just before Obama’s speech, a 2,397-word address that took Obama roughly 20 minutes to deliver.
Immediately after the inaugural address came a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, a Yale professor and the incoming chair of the African American studies department, who had tears in her eyes as she read her work.
“Say it plain, that many have died for this day,” read Alexander, who addressed the historic significance of Obama’s race more directly than any other on Tuesday. “Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.”
One Eli in attendance had fewer words for the occasion, but no less emotion.
“There is nothing to say,” Carmen Chambers ’12 noted. “We’re in a moment of history.”
Taylor Lasley contributed reporting from Washington.
Read our live blog from the National Mall.
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