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Watching Obama at R15

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The sun was barely peaking over the parking garage across 15th Street when several dozen people trickled in to R15, the restaurant bar adjacent to Cafe Bernardo in downtown Sacramento. They had come to see history being made, and perhaps have some red, white and blue pancakes.
Or a Bloody Mary.
But regardless of the form their breakfast took, the celebrants were clear on their focus: The inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
Watching the several flat screen TVs hanging around the high-ceilinged room, and in turn watched by a camera crew from Channel 31’s Good Morning, Sacramento, the celebrants were bright-eyed and attentive as the events from Washington, D.C. unfolded.
In the lead-up to the inaugural ceremony, the room was full of happy chatter, with occasional cheers for the appearances of members of the Obama family – and jeers for the occasional member of the Bush dynasty. But all fell silent as Obama stepped to the podium to address not just the crowds in Washington, or the few gathered in Sacramento, but hundreds of millions of people around the world.
The only sound while he spoke was made by the bartender, apparently oblivious to the weight of the moment, restocking the bar and clinking glassware.
As Obama spoke, applause and shouts of “Yes!” met him, along with tears from those who never thought they’d see this day.
Melanie Ramil almost jumped out of her seat at the appearance of Obama, her friends laughing with delight at her expressions of joy. Soon thereafter, tears rolled down her cheeks.
Obama’s short speech hit Mary Winkley the same way, and there was no hiding his effect. Throughout the room, there was a sense that this was a different kind of inaugural, one unlike any before.
Winkley later quoted a line she recalled from the speech: “This dream that we dare to dream, today became a reality,” she quoted. “That’s the quote of the day.”
Ramil said that she watched the election, and Obama’s acceptance speech, from El Salvador, where she was doing volunteer work. She said that that broadcast had left her “speechless,” and that she “finally felt proud of my country. Finally, there was someone who talks about the human side of things, not just about the money.”
Luis Sumpter noted how “inclusionary” Obama’s speech was, and he, too, recalled an earlier speech. “I think it’s the first time a presidential candidate included the word ‘gay’ in his acceptance speech.”
Andrea Johnson also praised the inaugural speech for its inclusiveness. “I’ve not seen anything like it,” she said. She added that the inaugural speech was different than speeches of a perhaps similarly-inclusive nature given by past presidents, especially Bill Clinton. The difference wasn’t so much in the message, but in the messenger himself.
“This is different than Clinton, there’s something so poignant about the fact that we actually crossed the line,” Johnson said of the nation’s vote for its first African American president. “It’s so concrete. This is the proof. We did it. We crossed the line.”
At the same time, Winkley expressed disappointment that Obama wasn’t as concrete in his calls for service as he had been in the campaign. “He didn’t ask us to contribute today,” she said. “There was no direct call to action.”
Down the street at a neighborhood Starbuck’s, Bill Curtis sat reading his morning paper, and said that he’d skipped the festivities.
“It’s hype,” he said dismissively. “People are going to be very disappointed by him. No one man is going to get us out of this hole we’re in, and his solution is going to involve raising our taxes. That’s just going to make it worse.”
But Curtis was in a decided minority among those out and about on Tuesday morning.
Brian McMartin, owner of a downtown realty company, was at R15 with several friends, and his take-away was very simple, and universally agreed: “He brings so much hope,” he said, grinning broadly. “Today is exactly what we needed.”

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