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“Can You Feel the Pulse of Life?”

Exuberant overflow crowd gathers at GSU to watch Obama take oath

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Click on the slide show above to see members of the BU community gathered to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama. Slide show by Kimberly Cornuelle.

“Check your pulse,” Rev. Dale Andrews told a teeming crowd in the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Ballroom late Tuesday morning. “Go ahead and put your fingers on your pulse. Can you feel the pulse of life? Can you feel the pulse of time? Oh, what a day!”

The day was indeed monumental. Andrews, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, and several hundred undergrads, BU Academy students, doctoral candidates, faculty, and staff were gathered at the GSU to witness history: the inauguration of Barack Obama, America’s 44th president and the first African-American to hold the nation’s highest office. Buildings and Grounds workers stood in the doorways. Others sat on the floor, on the stairs leading to the second floor, and on the balcony railings.

Nell Becker Sweeden (STH’12) was among the crowd. “The incarnation of Barack Obama is hope,” she said. “It’s change. Miracles can’t always happen in politics, but I have a positive understanding of what he can accomplish in office. One of the most important things to me is that this gives a different face to our international relations, something that’s less imperialistic and more understanding of other perspectives.”

Rachel Pickens (CAS’09) said Obama had opened the door not only for African-Americans, but for anyone trying to break down barriers.

“Barack Obama’s position as president will push people to do things that they may not have aspired to otherwise,” Pickens said. “It’s a monumental occasion. I had to watch it with others, share it with others.”

Indeed, people snapped pictures of themselves in front of the two giant screens set up at the front of the ballroom. They jumped to their feet when Obama was sworn in just after noon, and the applause was loud and sustained. They stood for the national anthem. The moment transcended time, place, and political affiliation.

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt an emotional response to a president being elected,” said Doug Machiz (CFA’09), “the first time I’ve ever felt a connection with the president.”

Jacqueline Blue (STH’09) was cautiously optimistic about the next four years.

“To me, the heavy lifting starts tomorrow,” she said. “We do this every four years. The pageantry is more process. I’m optimistic. But it’s going to require a lot of work. It’s going to require a unity that as a country we probably haven’t experienced yet. We’re moving into uncharted waters. For anybody with that task resting on their shoulders, it’s going to be a little slow going. I’m optimistic, but with a realistic eye.”

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

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