“American “”Obamania”” at the Hotel de Ville”
It was akin to coming to Thanksgiving dinner with family and close friends. The American community of Paris showed-off its closely-knit self as it gathered at the Hôtel de Ville to collectively watch the presidential inauguration live on big screens and celebrate the change of leadership.
By invitation of the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë and Pierre Schapira, Deputy of International Relations, about 800 Americans belonging to both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad, and a host of others filed into the salons of the stunningly beautiful City Hall of Paris about one hour prior to the formal ceremony in Washington DC.
There were so many familiar faces and friends we’ve come to know over the years. Everyone wore huge smiles on their faces, many donned “Obama” pins on their chests, some waved miniature American flags and one fan, handed out little mints from an “Obama” candy box.
On big screens positioned in the many grand ballroom and adjacent salons we watched CNN broadcast the event live. We could see two million or more people enduring the cold weather standing on the National Mall and surrounding area that encompasses the Capitol as we pinched ourselves that we had the uniquely privileged opportunity to be in the warmth and elegance of Paris’ most illustrious venue.
M. Delanoë and Ambassador Craig Roberts Stapleton stood before the massive crowd to address the American community of Paris and convey their solidarity with the U.S. and its people. Delanoë was his usual eloquent self and did not mince his words in expressing his delight with this new era in American politics and his respect for Barack Obama.
The high spirited energy in the room was infectious. When Vice President Dick Cheney came on the screen in a wheelchair, the audience booed. Past President Jimmy Carter, in contrast, received a huge round of applause. Aretha Franklin singing “My Country Tis of Thee” in her flamboyant gray flannel big-bow hat ‘blew us all away,’ followed by Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman’s performance of a newly composed piece especially for the inauguration, was almost too much to take.
We yawned at the inauguration opening prayer by Pastor Rick Warren who couldn’t seem to let go of the race issue. (Doesn’t he understand that we’re already over it? The man is a man and it doesn’t matter that one part is “pink.” That’s the whole point. Finally, we have the ability to forget our differences and think more about what we have in common than what we have not.)
And when ‘the man’ took oath and went on to address the masses of fans before him, the audience at the Hôtel de Ville hung on every word he uttered during his 18-minute-long speech. A few lines will certainly go down in history…such as: “…we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” “…we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” and “…know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”
Tears were shed…on mine and on the faces of others. When Past President George W. Bush got into the helicopter and flew away from the scene it was symbolic of the profound change taking place. We embraced each other and the moment itself.
We have never seen the world on such a huge scale embrace an incoming U.S. President with such enthusiasm. For Paris to have opened its arms in this way meant a lot to us who live here — to know that we are truly welcome and wanted as visitors, residents and dual citizens. One person shouted, “Now we can be proud to be American!” — and those of us living outside of the U.S. understood exactly what she meant.
The champagne was free flowing to all those who came to lend their support and after a lot of mingling and celebration the Golden Gate Quartet performed in their white tuxedos and soulful style. The dancing of glee was spontaneous and joyful. We came together, not as Democrats or as Republicans, but as Americans, who stand for our most fundamental ideals of freedom embodied in heart and soul.
To all of you who haven’t yet seen the light through the eyes of this man of multi-colors, who, for the entire world symbolizes a true hope for united peoples across the globe, I urge you to look beyond your political agendas and see how we need so desperately at this time of crisis a leader who can truly teach us to forget race and religion and remember simple humanity.
Thank you Mayor Delanoë for allowing this to happen for your American friends! I urge all of you who attended, and even those who didn’t but who wish to make a small mention, to send a message of thanks to M. Delanoë for opening his home and heart to the Francophile American community. You may do so by clicking here and entering your message.
And to the American community of Paris, thank you for being you. You should be proud of yourselves.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, The United States has never created such a position. Those in the arts need this and the country needs the arts — now more than ever. Please take a moment to sign this important petition and then pass it on to your friends and colleagues. Click here: http://www.petitiononline.com/esnyc/petition.html