With numb fingers and warm hearts, thousands packed the chilly steps of Low Library on January 20 to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama '83, the first College graduate to lead the United States.
Standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a JumboTron screen, students, faculty, staff and neighbors watched in awe as Obama took the oath to become the 44th president. Oblivious to the sub-freezing temperatures and snow blowing off Low's roof, the crowd had only smiles and tears of joy.
"It seemed inevitable, but to actually have it happen is amazing," said Gabriel Moyer-Perez '11, a history major. "He closely mirrors what we hold as our values. It's really refreshing to see someone in charge who cares about science and knowledge, the things we care about."
University President Lee C. Bollinger's office provided hot chocolate and cider to the 7,500 people who spent most of their morning on campus, and Bollinger greeted the crowd shortly before the precession of dignitaries began in Washington, D.C.
"It feels as if history has all come together for this one brilliant moment, everything resolved in the best possible way and offering us the potential for a much better world," he said. "And, so, we might say, Stand Columbia and let the world share with us our pride in being part of this defining moment in history, unembarrassed about our high hopes for the future, and glad to be part of an institution with a commitment to learn actively and to act wisely."
The pomp of the transition of leadership did not disappoint. Students from the School at Columbia cheered and waved blue and white pompoms. The crowd clapped for Aretha Franklin and roared as Obama was sworn in.
"It's really an amazing experience," said Gaia Goffe '11. "This is a historic moment, and we're glad we have that connection with Obama."
To read more about the celebration at Low and watch a video of President Bollinger's speech, visit http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/09/01/inauguration.html.
Ethan Rouen '04J