"Ca y est, l'investiture, c'est aujourd'hui!" announced my boss when I arrived at the office today. So it was that I learned another French word today, for here in Paris as everywhere else, Obama's inauguration was all anyone was talking about.
When colleagues asked me about the "big day," I laughed and told them how I was happily picturing Bush watching his last, useless hours in the Oval Office tick by while sitting alone at his desk sharpening pencils. "History will redeem me!" he was muttering in my imagination while grinding down yellow number 2s one by one.
I was proud of the moment and proud to be an American, but anxious as well. For as I kept uselessly explaining to anyone willing to listen, the easy part was behind Obama. Becoming president was trivial compared to the work he has ahead of him. Judging from the hopes and expectations of a few random people in an office in the suburbs of Paris, the world has placed more on his shoulders than on those of practically any individual in history.
I was still at my own desk when Obama took the oath of office. Thanks to my brand-new walkman, I could at least tune into the audio and I found a news station just in time for Obama to place his hand on the Lincoln bible. It was hard for me to seize everything in Obama's speech, since I was busy hurriedly finishing up the last things I needed to do before leaving for home and listening to a simultaneous French translation added to my distraction. But I got the essence: he said some hard, necessary things, but he said them in a way that was both inspiring and true.
By the time the translator, who was doing an admirable job translating at top speed phrases and concepts that often had no French equivalent, had reached a breathless "Et Dieu bénit les Etats Unis" for Obama's concluding "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes.