UVic Torch -- Spring 2009
Spring 2009,
Volume 30, Number 1

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A student gets a front row seat (well, closer than most) on history.
By LULU YUAN
Photography by CHUCK KENNEDY/POOL/CORBIS


I WITNESSED A TRULY HISTORIC AMERICAN CELEBRATION—the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. I was one of the estimated two million people standing on the National Mall watching the inauguration ceremony on that Tuesday. It was an extraordinary experience to embrace such a memorable moment in history.

I was among the 5,000 university students and alumni attending the University Presidential Inaugural Conference as "inaugural scholars". Each day was packed with public and private events building up to the inauguration. We also had a chance to hear former vice-president Al Gore and former secretary of state Colin Powell speak about building leadership skills and making a difference in the world.

When the "day" finally came, everyone could not be more excited. Despite the freezing cold weather, hundreds and hundreds of people stayed overnight just to get a good spot to see Obama. While there were people from all walks of life, the number of African Americans stood out in the crowd. Many came from other areas of the country to be part of history. Their joy was contagious. It was indeed their moment to be proud after many years of mistreatment.

Since I did not stay up overnight, I watched the ceremony on a giant screen on the National Mall with thousands of other people. While you could imagine such a crowd being extremely noisy, as soon as Obama started to speak, everyone was quiet. Everyone was so eager to hear him speak. It was amazing. People cheered and praised as they listened to their new president addressing issues that matter dearly to them. They saw their hope for the future in Obama. Obama has not only become their new president, but their hope in a country that faces so many problems and challenges.

The overall experience was thrilling and emotional. The whole of Washington, DC was in "Obama-mania". I met people cheering, dancing, singing and praising their new president in a way that I have never seen before.

I would say that this whole experience inspired me greatly. It proves that anyone can achieve the highest position in their society if they have passion, wisdom and the drive to unite people. And that we can make a difference. The power of people is unlimited and everlasting. Especially as young people, we have the power to change the world and shape our future. No matter what the past held, we can definitely influence the future.

Lulu Yuan received a grant from the UVic Alumni Association to attend the inauguration conference. Originally from Shanghai, she graduates in June with her Bachelor of Commerce degree.

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