Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Of pride and presidents (and poetry and potlucks, too)

What an incredible, historic day.

At noon, I watched the live, televised inauguration of President (no longer "President-elect" - at last!) Barack Obama with hundreds of people on campus. Faculty, staff, undergrads and graduate students joined with local high school students to fill the Thwing Ballroom where I work at Case Western Reserve University. The energy of the room was amazing. Tears filled my eyes.

The last time I felt such emotion about being an American was, indeed, when I first became an official American. In 2000, at my naturalization oath ceremony, I stood among people from all over the world, all of us united in our desire to seek U.S. citizenship. In watching the millions of people on the National Mall today, I was again reminded of those people who stood with me in San Francisco's Masonic Auditorium years ago, when my voice joined hundreds of others in reciting the oath of allegiance to the United States of America.

I am so proud to be an American today! We did it!

For me, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, it is such a thrill to witness a son of an immigrant ascend to the highest office in the country.

For me, the mother of multicultural children, it is such a thrill to witness a person of multiethnic roots become one of the world's most powerful leaders.

For me, an American citizen, it is such a thrill to witness the realization of a dream deferred.

This evening, I took Nico to an inauguration party in our neighborhood. It was quintessential Cleveland Heights. Coventry Village’s Big Bouncing Inaugural Ball was held at the Grog Shop, a hip concert venue in the area. The party, which benefited the Heights Emergency Food Center, invited attendees to a family-friendly "global potluck".

Potluck? You don't have to ask me twice - I'm all about potlucks! I prepared my signature potluck dish, rice pearl balls. Nico was so excited about the inauguration party he could barely keep it together. The other day, when Vic said to him, "Today is George Bush's last day as president," Nico responded, without missing a beat, "Change we need."

Since the potluck party had a late start time, too close to Nolan's bed time, Vic stayed home with Nolan while I took Nico to the event. Nico and I pinned our Obama campaign buttons to our winter coats, loaded up a bag of canned goods, carried our potluck platter and headed to the party.

When we arrived, I placed our platter on a table teeming with other eclectic dishes: hummus and pita, potato cheese pie, African ground nut stew, spicy black beans and rice, Mediterranean couscous, Kenyan vegetable curry, Mexican popovers, pizzas, various soups and "some kind of chicken salad thing" (that's what the label said). A dessert table held more treats: brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Canadian maple cookies, cheesecakes, cupcakes decorated with "O", a cake featuring a peace sign made of strawberries and blueberries and a sheet cake bearing a U.S. flag and icing with the message "Congratulations President Barack Obama".

I met up with my friend Claire, who had cajoled me into attending the Cleveland Obama rally in November. We greeted familiar faces from the community. We listened to performers. We celebrated with poetry and song. We realized the culmination of a dream we couldn't believe could really come true.

I'm exhilarated but exhausted. I want to sleep with the words from Inauguration poet Elizabeth Alexander on my mind:

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

I wish you guys would have reminded me. I totally forgot about the Grog Shop thing :(