Red, White, and Blue! (And, regarding the sign over the door... we trust this ship is now on course.) Today we are talking about where we were when we witnessed the historic inauguration (see today's story column). Please join in, in the comments box!

le serment (sair-mahn) noun, masculine
    1. oath
    2. pledge

la prestation de serment = taking the oath, the inauguration
prêter serment = to take an oath; to be sworn in
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "serment" and read the examples: Download Serment Download Serment


"La Prestation de Serment"

Here in France our family listened, by car radio, to the inauguration of America's 44th president. We were en route to an R&B concert (Chris Brown) in Marseilles, when we heard Senator Barack Obama prêter serment.*

Listening to the oath was a challenge from the start, as every time Obama said a word, the voice of French translation arose... and garbled it! This posed a dilemma: whether to concentrate on the version originale*... or the French echo that quickly obliterated it. Just when I resolved to listen to the version française,* in piped the President again, overriding the French!

Adding to the confusion were the pint-size political commentators in the back seat. (Particularly amusing to our kids, were the seconds in between the Presidential changeover. When the clock struck 6 p.m. here in France (12:00 in Washington, DC), Max announced that the United States was now sans président. "Attention aux coups!" he warned.

"Shhh! Listen, they're about to swear in the vice president, I replied.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est un "vice president" Max wanted to know.
"Un vice president..." Jean-Marc began, thoughtfully....
"Shhh! Let's listen!" I said.

We had reached the outskirts of Avignon when Obama began his pledge:
"Je jure solennellement..."*

...only, the kids queries continued!

"Est-ce que Obama aime la France?" Jackie wanted to know.
"Oui, Obama aime la France," Jean-Marc assured her.
With that, I issued a reminder: "Please! I would like to hear the oath!"

I had just missed the English, but caught the tail end of the French translation, where Obama promised to do "tout ce qui est en mon pouvoir pour préserver, protéger et défendre la Constitution des Etats-Unis".*

With that, cheering could be heard from across the Atlantic, thanks to modern technology (our trusty radio).

"Maman, you now have two presidents!" Max pointed out, referring to (and including) our French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"Yes, that's right... now please, let's listen!"

Obama's speech had already begun, but I would hear only fragments of it--no thanks to the political babbling, which continued from the backseat.

"Papa, est-ce que t'as jamais voté pour quelqu'un qui n'a pas gagné?"*
Jean-Marc cited the 1988 French presidential election in which Jacques Chirac lost.

"Please! I am trying to understand what the President is saying!" I persisted.

As Jean-Marc, Max, and Jackie, along with Barack--and that motor-mouth French interpreter--competed for attention, I felt myself begin to snap and it only took one more question (this, from my daughter) for my hands to fly up into the air and my mouth to fly open along with them.  "GAAAAHD!" I thundered.

Silence fell over the car, but for the screaming shame emanating from the passenger's seat.

With my family shocked silent, President Obama's words could now, effectively, be heard. Only now, he seemed to talk directly to my family, reminding us of values such as "...the force of our example..." and "the tempering qualities of HUMILITY and RESTRAINT."

The president's words washed over me, turning me around in an abrupt "about face" with my daughter. Now reaching to the backseat of the car, I was about to witness how a child's example of forgiveness would bring to life our President's words about truth and character:

"I am sorry, Jackie," I apologized. To my outreached hand, my daughter offered her own, unreservedly. Her next gesture took me by surprise. She lifted my hand, high up, and kissed it!

Like that, in her generous way, my daughter had offered more than forgiveness: she showed unwavering faith and respect. Even more, her actions underlined an underlying theme in Obama's speech: humility.

Mr. President, I missed parts of your message. But I heard it when you said that, by our actions the world will know us, not by our words. So I am no longer worried about the words that I have missed, for I have seen the spirit of your message written across my own humbled hand, delivered there by the sweet lips of a child.

P.S.: Mr. President, Jackie would like you to know that France likes you too!

Where were you when you heard Barack Obama take oath? What parts of his speech spoke to you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments box.
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
prêté serment = took oath; la version (f) originale = original language or version; la version (f) française = French language version; Attention aux coups! = watch out for (any) attacks!; Je jure solennellement... = I solemnly swear"; ...tout ce qui est en mon pouvoir pour préserver, protéger et défendre la Constitution des Etats-Unis = ...to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; Papa, est-ce que t'as jamais voté pour quelqu'un qui n'a pas gagné? = Dad, have you ever voted for someone who (eventually) did not win?
My daughter has been teaching me from the day she arrived--at the maternity ward in Aix-en-Provence... Read about that, and learn some of those lessons, here in this book:

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love...

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I didn't vote for Mr. Obama but I wish him and our country well. I'm sure he knows that some of our problems will require bold action rather than too much restraint.

Amy Reverdy

Hi Kristin, Thank you for sharing your sweet story. I was in Paris watching it on CNN. It was definitely one of those days when I wished I could have been back with my friends in CA. I had a funny experience a few hours before the inauguration. I was out shopping and two Frenchmen asked me to sign a petition. I explained that I wasn't French. They heard my accent and asked where I was from. When I told them the US, they both grinned from ear-to-ear and said in heavily accented English: "You’re from American. You know, we love you again."


The day dawned with sun and warm temps, at least in comparison to two weeks ago when it was -12, Celsius that is. The conversion is so hard for me that every time I have to go look it up - wait just a second. . . . . . . . Okay, that's 10.4 F, Cold by any scale. At 3.3C (38F), it felt almost spring like. Spring, the beginning of hope and what better way to label this memorable day, January 20, the day of Hope for all Americans, the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

One might think that being over 4,000 miles from home, interest in this day may not be at the level of those nearer to DC. But I received an email with at least 10 different locations that were having celebrations and get-togethers for this historic day, not counting the official ones at the Embassy and the Paris Town Hall. When I walked into the American Library, the Eiffel Tower looming just two blocks away, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mixed group waiting to watch the promised big screen presentation “LIVE from Washington”. Students from Bennington College in Vermont were in front of me, flanking me were native Californians and to our derriere, where three senior Parisians. By the time we were all finally seated, all 120 of us, the screen was already showing the high ranking politicians descending the stairs to take their places on the podium. There were cheers and clapping when Hilary and Bill came into view. Then more noise for Jimmy and Roselyn, but then the hissing started as the elder Bushes came out, followed by Cheney in a wheelchair and then "W". In this environment it was safe to jeer and heckle, so far from the real stage.

Great swells of laughter and clapping greeted Aretha Franklin, in her almost French looking chapeau with the big bow and rhinestones (or were those diamonds?) She got the respect that George didn't. She sure can belt out a song! By this time everyone was reaching for their Kleenex and linen hankies (we are in Paris after all).

As U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein took the stand we all quieted down and then it happened: a blank screen!!! This couldn't be happening! We live in the computer age of 2009! Technology at it's best. Or was it an act of sabotage, the guy next to me mumbled. The moderator scrambled to revive the broadcast but she was unsuccessful - we had lost the Internet connection! Dead. Now more scrambling to find a television but to no avail - same Internet provider. Alas, the old trusty radio was set on the floor and we all assumed the head tilt, our best ear forward to hear the strained words, of not the VP, Joe Biden, but already the middle of the inaugural address by the then-sworn-in, President Obama! We missed it!! To make matter worse, the radio station, of course being French, was translating on top of Obama so the effect was one of murmured English echoed in French! It was reminiscent of days gone by when the family gathered around the old Victrola to listen to Fibber McGee and Molly.
My headache subsided as I walked to the bus, thoroughly deflated. I had missed the most important speech of this century due to the mass of people tuning in to the broadband that just wasn't broad enough. I could have watched from my apartment where the TV was working perfectly, but then I would have been alone, not surrounded by “my fellow Americans” and others. I can't fault everyone for wanting to listen to this broadcast, so I quickly forgave them and hurried on home to catch the video version, smaller but clearer, an hour later.

The day ended with a new president in place in the White House. What more could I ask for. Well, better broadband technology I guess. Maybe Obama will be able to fix that too.

Elizabeth Jones


I too shared the day with my daughter and a dose of patience. My kids were home from school for a "snow day." (We live in Charlotte, North Carolina and just the site of flurries shuts down the city and sends everyone to the ski store to gear up!) Anyway, I told the kids and their friends that I would take them "sledding" (on hills of melted snow), but had to be home by 11am for the festivities. When we got home, the kids knew I wanted them to watch with me, but should they cross the threshhold of our television room, there was to be no talking...I was serious enough that they seemed to listen (they've heard me yell!). My 11-year-old musician son was all keyed up for John Williams' arrangement of music, but surprisingly enough my 8-year-old daughter sat totally intently listening to the whole speech of her first inauguration. She was in my lap, holding my hands and I was so amazed: every time Obama said something particularly powerful or provocative/moving, she would squeeze my hands--before she heard any cheering or anything to prompt her response. It was then that I realized that perhaps part of what has made his election so exciting is he is understood and appreciated--that he listens to and is heard by--such a broad-reaching population in age and ethnicity. I felt so grateful my children were going to have such a voice of hope and realism, intelligence and compassion, speaking to them for the next four (or more, hopefully) years.

Yeah Obama!!


Kristin, I am looking forward to reading your book that I just got yesterday! J'aime ton histoire aujourd'hui comme j'aide preparer ma fille de partir pour Londres le mardi prochain.......sniff.


I was volunteering helping people file their income tax returns, all of the computers we had available have had the audio cards removed, so we were unable to listen to the ceremony. When I got home, I read a transcript of his speech from the BBC website.


I was here at home near London where I now live, although most of my life I lived near NYC. I watched *everything* via the computer and marvelled at the technology that allows us to do that.

I'm of an advanced age now and was brought up when segregation and racial barriers truly abounded. I did not vote for Obama, but he is a very bright individual and my thoughts and hopes are with him, especially if he can unite a country now in great peril and difficulty. It's not a time for partisanship. I hope the Congress realizes that.

My daughter-in-law went to law school with Michelle Obama... who knew????


I work from home so was able to keep the TV on all day with an eye and ear tuned in. I have never been more proud to be an American. Thank you, Kristin for sharing your day with us.

Elaine Street

I live in Chalon sur Saone. My teenage son and I were interviewed by the local paper as we watched the inauguration. The journalist was eager to see the typical American pride and joy. Of course we had it, in the article which she wrote, she expressed our reverence for the occasion with the phrase that- it was so quiet as we watched, that one could hear the flies.


We were glued to the tele watching CNN - and we received many pictures of the inauguration via the blackberry from my lovely US goddaughter Brady who was in Washington D.C. for the event she and her friends had so long worked and hoped for!

Let us hope that the new president Obama will be able to address those many pressing global problems in an efficient and effective way - and may everybody rally behind him, at home and everywhere else in the world, to bring more peace to the world again, and may he be able to restitute America's reputation with regard to a ethical and democratic leadership.
All the very best to the President of the United States of America. Thank you, Kristin, for your very astute and endearing conclusion in today's the French-Word-A-Day.


When we lived in Chicago, the operation Breadbasket had been introduced by Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember my very first day, having arrived in the US in the year 1966 in the greater Chicago area. I wanted to go shopping at a bakery store around the corner - and there were people picketing the store because of the hiring policy. I asked one of the people carrying a sandwich board why this store was being boycotted. He introduced himself as Jesse Jackson.
Yesterday, we were watching Obama becoming the new president of the United States. So many dreams finally came true.
Let us hope that together we can overcome the tremendous global problems of today's world.


My coworkers and I were huddled around my computer screen watching a live feed from CNN.com. It was fabulous!

Seattle, WA US


It is a tradition in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (where I live) that the cities pretty much shut down completely whenever it snows, or it looks like it might snow, or anyone named "Snow" is visiting the area. So my younger brother, a high school senior, was home all day. He was watching a show on the Sci-Fi channel called Special Unit 2 when my mother, who is a preschool teacher (at a private school, which was NOT closed because her boss has sense), called to let me know that the inauguration was on and she wanted us to watch it. My brother was reluctant to do so, but finally through gentle persuasion--okay, there I really am stretching it, I screamed at him until my face turned purple and threatened to call my mother--he put on the inauguration. We tuned in just before the invocation (and our little United Methodist brains are so conditioned that when Rick Warren said "We pray this in the name of your son Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray together, saying..." we both automatically started the Lord's Prayer along with him!).

Immediately after Obama took his Oath of Office, when the band struck up "Hail to the Chief", my brother announced, "I'm putting my show back on." Before I could say anything, he had put the Sci-Fi channel back on and tucked the remote under his arm. I didn't want a fight, so I went back to my computer and finished my lesson plans for that afternoon. When I arrived at my mother's school, where I teach French once a week, my oldest student, who is eleven (and who had initially been disappointed that Obama won), asked me what I had thought of the inaugural address, and I informed him (and my mother) that I hadn't seen it. The youngest student there that day, age four, said it was a nice speech. I had hoped my brother would be at least a little ashamed that a four-year-old had listened to the president's speech and he hadn't, but he wasn't; he said he didn't particularly care about the inauguration. He's the only person I know who supported McCain in the election and isn't at least willing to give Obama a chance. Nonetheless, I enjoyed what I did get to see, and I am optimistic about the next four years.


I was at the hospital cafeteria getting a latte. The t.v. was on and there were people of all ages, cultures and classes. The room got quiet (even the motormouth sitting next to me). EVERYONE applauded at the end of the President's oath. We are the UNITED states of America.


I work from my home in Idaho, so I was able to watch the television coverage for an hour or so. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw President Obama ready to step out of the capitol building before he took oath. I enjoyed the moment when the Bushes flew away in the helicopter and I saw them disappear into the distance. Then I listened to France Inter while I worked and felt proud to hear praises in French of our new president. It was a happy happy day!!

Jules Greer

Bronwyn - I did exactly the same thing with the Lord's prayer when Rick Warren began the prayer - a shot of joy exploded in my heart at that moment - unlike you I didn't learn that prayer until I was 33 years old, lying on my sick bed in Davos, Switzerland -half dying of pnemonia. Because the t.v. and reading material was all Europeian languages I reached into the nightstand drawer and my hand settled on a book in ENGLISH -- that was the first day of my life that I read the Lord's prayer - I find it very interesting that the date was January 20th 1980 - and I claim that day as the day I was BORN AGAIN. I was so far from knowing what the BIBLE was that I actually wrote that prayer down on a piece of paper and re-read it over and over all day. Saying all of this, January 20th has come full circle for me 29 years later, I felt the joy explode once again in my heart, feeling the hope this Holy prayer ignited as I witnessed the power of FAITH IN HOPE.




Hi Kristin:

I've been a regular at your website for about a year now. I discovered it when I bought your book in Montreal last winter. I live in Newfoundland, but I visit Montreal frequently.
If you are talking with Max, let him know that Barack Obama became President at noon, even though he hadn't taken the oath. It's in your Constitution. At no time were there 2 Presidents, or a gap when there was no President.

I've been to France 4 times, and I yearn to return. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent cruising the countryside of France.

I really enjoy your website,


Diana Porter

For four days, I had been reading daily "postards from Washington" being composed each day and sent out by my sister-in-law who was attending the inauguration AND a ball with my brother and his pre-teen children; they had, so far, had a fabulous trip, visiting various sites and museums around Washington DC. She described the joyous camaraderie of all she encountered, whether they lived in Washington, or were visiting for the event.

As for me, about 5:30 a.m., I logged on to the "facebook.live" being broadcast cooperatively with CNN. I was up early, and didn't want to miss a thing. About 10 minutes into my solitary viewing of the broadcast (I was home sick with a stomach ailment) an instant message popped up from a Swedish student who had lived with me for 3 years while she attended university to get her forensic pathology BS. It has been 9 years since she lived with me, and I have missed her - we had become good friends since her time here in the US. She was watching the facebook.live broadcast too!

It was almost like our old times when we used to sit on the couch and discuss everything on the "tube". We instant messaged back and forth for nearly 5 hours, commenting on and sharing our feelings about everything from the amazing sea of people who had come to the inauguration to the dresses and hairstyles. We talked about European points of view vs. the American on every subject that came up; What an amazing achievement for Obama. What a strong leadership speech! Although I didn't vote for him, he has my wholehearted support and prayers!

I have been so fortunate to share this inauguration in a variety of ways and media that made it a non-traditional one for me, and for most of us.

I can't wait for the last "postcard" from my sister-in-law to complete my experience with her vivid descriptions of the ball she attended last night...and I am looking forward to my next trip to france when I won't have to defend our leadership choices.

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--And now, when I visit Paris, I won't have to pretend I'm Canadian anymore!!!
eve robillard--proud to be an american encore


I watched the inauguration (investiture) the whole day on various channels here in Northern NY, but mostly on C-Span because it had live coverage without the comments of other stations. I did vote for Obama and my husband his opponent, but that's the challenge of the USA, agreeing to disagree and still being civil to each other. The highlight of the whole day for me was when I switched to ABC in the evening to watch the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. Watching our new President dance with his beautiful wife while Beyoncé sang the Etta James classic "At Last" was simply breath-taking. Then back to C-Span for the other balls and another highlight, when modern technology at the Commander in Chief's Ball allowed President Obama to speak with some of our soldiers in Afghanistan and to express our support for them. Truly a memorable day for America and the world. Que d'émotion! as one of my friends from France wrote. This year when we make our annual visit with students the American cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer, I'm going to make sure to enter the building where the American President's portrait is displayed.

Kristin Espinasse

Great to read your stories. Keep 'em coming!

Douglas: I'll let Max know that all bases were covered! As for "two presidents", Max was referring to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Henry Lambert

I was watching the speech on tf1.fr ,en direct, about ten minutes into the speech the screen went blank. The site had lost the feed.
Later a story in the New York Times said that many sites crashed because this was the highest load ever experienced by the internet.


Off the main comments topic, I remember reading the Rimbaud poem "Le Bateau Ivre" (about which I now remember nothing but the title) when I was in high school in England.


What a touching story! You brought me to tears here in New Mexico, USA. Thank you for sharing our optimism. We are all hoping for good things. So much humility and forgiveness is needed.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

I was at jury duty in downtown Phoenix, AZ. While the whole group of us was watching the inauguration, it occurred to a few of us how fitting we were watching while waiting to serve on a jury. The freedoms we have and the opportunity to help swelled us with pride. Our President has challenges ahead of him, but if we all pull together with kindness, forgiveness and most of all with hope, we will be united.


I was THERE! Standing in the Silver Section, which was behind the Capitol Reflecting Pool, thousands of us shivered and marched in place to the Sousa marches, played by the Marine Band, hoping to thaw out our freezing toes. We strained to see the platform at the Capitol and watched everything that was happening on the Jumbo-Tron, positioned about twenty feet in front of us.Black and white, young and old, from every corner of the United States, we cheered our new First Family, unashamedly ignoring the tears streaming down our faces and embracing the new friends we made during the 4 hour wait.

All of us were united in the cries, "Yes, We Did!" and "O-BA-MA!"


Salut de Tampa :o) J'adore lire toujours tes petits commentaires "trois fois" de ta vie famialle en France. Ça me fait rigoler toujours. Moi, je suis prof de français ici aux E-U et hier avec les étudiants je leur ai appris "L'investiture du Président", et je me demande maintenant si je me suis trompée. Est-ce qu'on peut aussi employer cette expression pour décrire ce qui s'est passé hier? Merci d'avance et bonne continuation toujours avec les vignobles. C'est vrai que vous allez passer par Tampa pour un dégustation? A+

Mary Pace

France 2 News announced "l'investiture du President Obama," so you must be absolutely correct. The inauguration is the investiture; the oath is the serment. In English, we also might say that he "took the oath," or more casually, we might call it a "swearing-in." I was home, watching the news all morning and enjoying my own emotions and those of all who participated in the ceremony. I felt very proud and happy to be an American.


Not ashamed to say I shed tears because remembering Dr.Martin Luther King say to one of his friends-Something like this-"You will reach the promised land but I may not be there with you".The Promise and "Dream" is just beginning and I believe President OBama Will succeed.Of course I was at home watching the screen and I stood at all the appropriate moments.Your story is very touching and you've again with your photo Made an ache in my heart to be in France.June

William Stein

You used to offer pronunciations in two formats: wav and mp3. Please continue to do that - I have difficulties with wav.


Thank you Kristen for sharing with us how easily we can translate President Obama's speech into our daily lives. I watched the coverage all day on my TV. In '97 I was privileged to be seated on a chair on the front lawn of the Capitol, watched the parade from the balcony of a law firm near 1600 on Pennsylvania Avenue and attended some of the inaugural balls, but the enthusiasm and hope conveyed yesterday was incomparable. It was a great day for the United States and the world!

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Did you hear Australia cheer? 'Cause we did!!! We cheered as much as we cheered when Australia voted out Bush's Aussie lapdog! On both occasions we cracked a bottle of bubbly (at work!). Hope is reborn.


I was in a theater at the university I work at watching CNN on a huge screen with other faculty, staff and, at the last minute, students. Everyone cheered and clapped at just the right moments. I looked over and a co-worker was tearing up at the same time I was when Obama made his way through the Capitol. It was special to share that moment with others who valued its importance. Especially here, deep in the heart of Texas!

And Douglas is right. The CNN announcers interupted the Williams quartet to point out that Obama officially became president at noon, oath or not. I think he was about five minutes late. But it was worth it!

Fred Caswell

An Obama supporter with words and money from very early on, and a "Liberal" to the core, this senior citizen has marveled at his sweet, eloquent, and moving oratory from when I first heard him deliver the key note address at the Democratic Convention in 2004 after which I immediately turned to my wife stating "He should be our president".

His words fill me with joy to the point of tears for I have long wanted our governments to confirm with consistent actions the words of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The joy felt when it was announced that Barak had won was overwhelmingly spiritual for it showed that my idealism for democracy, for which over many years I have been ridiculed as a dreamer and not a realist, was now being honored and reaffirmed. Copious tears! -- only a little less yesterday.

It is clear that our new President has many goals which seem impossible to reach, but he has already accomplished an "impossible" dream, brought hope to this and other countries, and shown that he is a man of character, strength, wisdom, unflappable steadiness under pressure and criticism, outstanding intelligence, a sense of humor, and a background plus genes to oil the paths to constructive dialogues with locals and foreign commoners or leaders. And a beautiful family to boot!

Via con Dios, Barak!.


I think this is a proud day for all Americans and a day that shows a true coming of age for a wonderful and diverse nation. President Obama is a man who shows an intellect, wit, courage and has a pride as well as humility in representing the "everyday man" of America. I applaud the "Everyday Man" of America for his decision to keep forging new dimensions to a great country's relationship within and with the rest of the world. The future is exciting!


I was watching TV with my 89 year old mother as we arranged my brothers funeral. (He had been suffering physically & mentally for many years and looked upon death as a blessed relief.) Talk about emotion. This was tears upon tears.
President Obama is an excellent orator and we hope that his administrative brain trust can, with everyone's help, heal our wounds.
Just loved all of it; it was so well planned and executed.

You had me in tears with your testamony. It's no wonder your daughter is a seeker of truth.

Jan H

I was able to watch most of the ceremony on TV (here in the SF Bay Area) before I had to go to work and returned directly home to continue watching the coverage.
The minute I turned on the TV the tears began to flow as if releasing a flood that had been dammed up for eight years.
I felt happiness, sadness, relief, and a new sense of hope and pride for our country.
Loved your story, Kristin!


J'étais là! I was able to attend the inauguration in DC. Be thankful you were in the warmth because it was sooo cold! I woke up at 2:15 am to brave the cold and thousands of others....and the thousands of others did the same because they were standing in line with me at 4 am! A fantastic experience and simultaneously overwhelming!


Robert Haine

I was in my classroom with my Period 2 French I class--30 students, mostly ninth graders, watching on a rather fuzzy channel 9 (we don't have an antenna or cable). They hardly made a sound for the fifty minutes. I didn't check, but I think everyone in our building was doing the same lesson, i.e., listening and watching history being made. I found myself praying the Lord's Prayer along with Reverend Warren, thinking, this is the first time in my 32-year teaching career that I was actually praying aloud in my classroom, and that it felt perfectly normal. Our principal came in and said to the class that they would remember this day years from now, and where they were, and we both hugged each other and I couldn't hold back the tears, realizing that he was right.

Carol Folino

I was attending thoracic rounds at the busy cancer center where I work.We had a TV in the room and delayed our weekly meeting to listen in.Total silence prevailed.A few sniffles,then back to work, discussing treatment options for our patients.


Thanks for your photo, Kristin, with its Rouge-bleu emerging through a light bluey-whitish background. Even the bike in front of the door is red and blue! The name of this friendly looking restaurant, is taken from the title of a sombre poem “Le bateau ivre”. From the poem and its delirious visions, I can only remember:
"Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré ! Les Aubes sont navrantes.
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer :
L'âcre amour m'a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.
Ô que ma quille éclate! Ô que j'aille à la mer!"

Here is a translation I've found:
But, truly, I’ve wept too much! The Dawns
Are heartbreaking, each moon hell, each sun bitter:
Fierce love has swallowed me in drunken torpors.
O let my keel break! Tides draw me down!

“Le bateau ivre” is a poem written by Arthur Rimbault in 1872, about a drunken boat carrying Flemish wheat or English cotton, no longer pulled by ropes and floating down impassible rivers, running into the furious breakers of the sea, dancing on the waves, lighter than a cork , bathing in the Poem of the Sea, nacrous waves, silver suns... piercing the red skies …

Well, America in Obama's hand won't be a drunken boat, that's for sure!

Kristin, everyone in UK thought it was the greatest day for America and the whole world! I was glued to the telly and kept hopping from BBC1 to Channel4, watching the crowd becoming bigger and bigger, listening to lots of ordinary people being interviewed ... As soon as the Inauguration Speech started, I became motionless, absorbed every word, shed a few tears of joy, clapped and felt with a great sense of hope that America had made the right choice and change was possible!

I've never showed in my whole life a lot of interest in speeches made by any politician. I have to admit that I bookmarked both the Chicago Speech (4th Nov 08)
and now, the Inauguration Speech
and have been re-listening to them several times!

Looking so much forward to this 'new area of responsibilities'.

Mary Jo

I am a middle school science teacher in Minnesota. I watched President Obama's inaguration ceremony with my students through an lcd projector on the big screen in my classroom.

I am a Democrat and an Obama supporter and I was thrilled to see this man take office. Prior to Tuesday we had spent class time discussing the legacy of Dr. King and making connections with the civil rights struggle and now this historic election.

My students and I were awestruck at the faces in the crowd - diverse and colorful and moved by the occasion. When the ceremony ended and the choir sang the national anthem the kids spontaneously stood up right there in the classroom with their hands over their hearts.

In the past few years my husband (who is not an American) and I have vacationed in France three times, renting an apartment and living among real people, if only for a time. We've been embarrassed by our home country and its bullying, intolerant cowboy leader. When next we visit we will be proud to say we live in America, the country that just elected an African American to its highest ofice.

Change has come. Hope is on the horizon.


I was at "le bureau" at the time; but even though there was a tv in the break room, the office managers didn't allow anyone to go there to watch the Inagruation unless it was a scheduled break or lunch. This didn't stop about half a dozen of us from huddling around a co-worker's portable black & white tv to watch as much of the ceremony as we possibly could before the supervisor of Linda (the tv owner) ordered us all back to work. I was a little dissapointed, but to be fair I could understand because Linda and the people on her work team had a special project that needed to be completed by the end of the business day.

I did get to see the last bit of President Obama's speach in the break room since it coencided with my lunch, with a group of usually talkative co-workers hushed in order to catch everything. And immediately after I got home, my tv was on and switched to C-SPAN for the replay. Hopefully the sense of unity and optimism that seemed to be everywhere will stick around in the weeks and months (and maybe even years) to come.

To echo Eve, it's comforting to know that when I finally get to visit France, I won't have to pretend to be Canadian!

poppy fields

Hi Kristin,
I listened to the inauguration ceremonies on CNN.com live....at home, sitting in front of my computer. I didn't want to hear French voices talking over his, so I didn't watch TF1 or any of the other "chaines". But right when it was time for Mr. Obama to take oath, I had to unglue myself from the screen and take my youngest daughter to her Aikido class...I ended up listening to the French radio version, too :)

Nancy LoBalbo

Hi Kristin, On Election Day 2008 we were in Avignon. We were amazed during that week preceeding the election (and for the rest of our trip) at the keen interest shown by the French (and other Europeans) in the U.S. election process and the joy at President Obama's victory... or as my husband pointed out while watching the television news that week.."Is there any French news going on?"
What I noted to our concierge on that decisive day @ 2:30 a.m.(the only other person in the Lobby watching the returns at that hour) was that I was no longer "embarassed" about being from the U.S. Up to that point I hadn't even realized that I found it embarassing.
Now we move forward with tremendous hope!


Am I always the last one to get to my email?? And I have to respond to this one.

Approaching now almost six decades on the planet, I was more moved and, yes, filled with "hope" after this inauguration than any time I can remember. A friend invited me to join her in an old theater in Nashville to watch the ceremony on the "big screen." The room was packed with all sorts of folks, young and old, and every time Obama appeared, we clapped and shouted -- and for some of us tears filled our eyes. His speech left me feeling both inspired and ready to go to work. Such strength, integrity, intelligence, and grace in the face of enormous challenges. We are blessed indeed to have Obama at the helm.

And to Jackie....one of the parts of his speech that touched me was when he addressed the rest of the world. As the NYT editorial said:

Instead of Mr. Bush’s unilateralism, Mr. Obama said the United States is “ready to lead once more,” by making itself a “friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.” He said “our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.”

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your account and cheers to the Espinasse family and to all our friends in France.

Misti Garcia


I was touched by your lesson. I was at work and also had to hear over talking. I am just so happy at the world's response to our new president. Perhaps some of our international relationships can be restored as well as faith from our own citizens. As a minority in this country I did not vote based on race. I voted based on principles but I could not help feeling so proud that our country has come full circle. Obama's election has restored hope and a sense of pride in a time that is full of despair. Since France likes Obama, perhaps France will receive me well when I make my first trek over to your country next year.


Dear Elaine Street,

I saw that you are a regular with Kristin and live in Chalon sur Saone. I live in a small village in the hills not far from Chalon. If you are interested in meeting some other Americans who are sooooo thrilled about Obama making a better name for Americans here, please email me at [email protected]. Why are you here? We have just found our destination for retirement and are in love with our region. Hope you love it too! Smiles, Allison Herron (Culles les Roches)

PS Kristin, we were on our way to help another American who was going to have an operation in Heidelberg, Germany so weren't able to watch/hear the Inauguraion real time but enjoyed hearing your expereience. Yeah, Obama - all of our French friends are so hopefully too.


Hi Kristin,
Adding a few words to tell you I had to go to London to update some documents. Obama's books were everywhere (Buy 1, Get 1 1/2 price!). I bought "Dreams from my father" (2004) and "The audacity of Hope" (2006). I've already read 1/3 of the first one but will have to stop reading right now and switch off my laptop, otherwise I won't be able to get out of bed in a few hours'time!


I was at work. I guess I get more fired up on election day than inauguration day. I feel proud to vote. It feels very personal. I am just one person but, what we do collectively on that day, is astounding.

I did not vote for Mr. Obama because I differ on his position on important issues, but the fact that we can open debate and disagree is a great reminder of the value and price of freedom.


We were fortunate to be at the Hotel de Ville in Paris watching the inauguration on a grand ecran! The energy in the room was fantastic, and I was proud and excited to be an American!

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