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World in awe of Obama’s historic moment

World in awe of Obama’s historic moment
AFP
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First Published: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 02 18 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 02 18 AM IST
Kogelo, Kenya: Thousands danced Tuesday in the African village where Barack Obama’s father was born, joining millions worldwide transfixed as the first African American US president took his Washington oath.
People went to Obama parties in embassies and bars, thronged in old haunts and with former colleagues in New York and Paris or simply stared up from streets the world over to watch the historic moment on giant screens.
Others were just as happy to log on and cram cyberspace with their views from computer or mobile keypads.
While two million people flooded Washington’s National Mall ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, the population of tiny Kogelo in Kenya grew threefold to 3,000 as tourists joined locals in rapturous devotion.
“We the people of Kogelo, our minds and our eyes are now open because now we don’t feel so small, we don’t feel of so small value anymore,” said Josephine Awuor, 30.
At Obama’s old Columbia University in New York, several thousand students hoped a little of Obama’s magic might rub off on them.
Shira Burton, 22, said she felt a powerful connection because Obama’s studies there in 1981-83 would likely have included the university’s core curriculum of classic Western authors, such as Homer.
“It’s really cool to be able to listen to what he says and know that we’re learning the same things that he learned,” said Burton, a student of women’s studies and psychology. “Everyone’s so excited.”
Obama studied international relations at Columbia, before going on to study law at Harvard.
There were cheers, whoops of joy and loud applause in Afghanistan also as soldiers welcomed in their new commander-in-chief at Camp Phoenix, a mainly US base on the outskirts of Kabul.
“It’s a proud moment for us,” said Brigadier General Steven Huber, commander of the base, where many of the soldiers hail from Illinois, also Obama’s home state.
“He is our new commander-in-chief and we will serve him with honour,” he told AFP.
In Berlin, thousands of Germans and Americans turned out for a party thrown by the Democrats Abroad in the city where Obama in July held the biggest rally of his campaign before a crowd of 200,000.
“Under Bush all that faith we had in America was trampled on and betrayed but I feel hopeful again tonight. I have my fingers crossed for Obama,” said Dorothea Kleffel, 46, an executive assistant.
At a party in a central London bar, Americans, Africans and Britons raised a toast to the new president and cheered the big screen when George W. Bush’s helicopter carried the outgoing leader away.
“I was so excited, I had chills watching the entire ceremony,” said Shafee Johns-Wilson, 29, from New Mexico.
“Obama has so much to do to put things back on track but he is heading in the right direction. Thank God Bush has gone.”
In the French capital, meanwhile, dozens of students and other Americans gathered at the American Business School in Paris alongside Joan Helbling, 70, who taught at Obama’s high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the new president spent seven years.
“He was a very average student and yet he was so intelligent he didn’t have to do much to get by,” said Helbling, whose husband teaches at the Paris business school. “I like to think of him as a student of life.”
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First Published: Wed, Jan 21 2009. 02 18 AM IST