Obama Inauguration Day at UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza

In 1962 my mother kept us all out of school and we walked up to the UC Berkeley Memorial Stadium to hear President Kennedy speak. I was ten, and we sat on the wooden benches under the open sky with his voice ricocheting from the loudspeakers. I don't remember what he said, but I remember he was laid on my heart like a patch that day, a man who made people laugh and cheer when he spoke. A man important enough that my shy and reclusive mother would brave crowds to make sure we saw him.

Since then, my heart has been patched and repatched, in love and in anger and sorrow, often within sight of the campus, inside the surging sounds from the carillon bells. I went to school at UC Berkeley, was tear-gassed in Sproul Plaza, graduated as the first student with a degree in Women's Studies. My husband Tom and I had our night-before wedding party at the Faculty Club, with our family gathered to celebrate us. I still frequently walk to campus, my library card in hand, loving the smell of the halls, the echoing sound of chairs scraping back from study tables, the quiet rustling of paper as people turn pages and scribble and type and sigh.

This morning Tom and I headed for Sproul Plaza to watch Obama's inauguration under a wide open sky. The lovely circle of completion: another president who can inspire us like we haven't had since JFK, another president already laid on my heart, just like on so many other American hearts. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of us gathered together to cheer and weep and dare to hope he can guide our weary, crashing world to a better place.

Oh Lord, What a Morning. The sun clears the building as Michelle walks out.

Obama speaks.


Everyone listens, and this man stands and sings the Star Spangled Banner, start to finish.

As things wound down and the crowd began to drift away, this woman, Lady Liberty, remained perfectly still and watched until Bush took off in the helicopter. Then she turned quietly and walked away, witness to the moment.