Applause, laughter, cheering, goose bumps, and even a few tears filled the Great Room of Blanchard Campus Center on Tuesday morning, when an enthusiastic crowd gathered to watch as Barack Obama became the country’s forty-fourth president.
Starting at 10:30 am, students, staff, faculty, and alumnae began to arrive in the darkened room to watch CNN coverage on the giant television screen. In the opening minutes of the ceremony the group was quietly attentive, but excitement and energy grew as the transition of presidential power drew near. When Obama formally appeared on the Capitol steps, applause in the Great Room mingled with the applause streaming in live from the mall in Washington, D.C.
Genevieve Coe '12 and her friend Nick Atherton of Middlebury, Vermont, were among the many students who came together in Blanchard to watch the event. “This is a day I wish James Brown were alive to see,” said Atherton after hearing soul queen Aretha Franklin sing "My Country ’Tis of Thee."
"I watched the election here and it’s good to be back in this room again," Coe said. "Everyone our age is so excited by this. It’s our first experience as citizens. We and our friends voted for the first time in this election. I have never felt so much faith and pride and hope for the future as I do now."
Everyone rose to their feet when Obama took the oath of office, and the rousing cheers and applause continued for several minutes afterwards. The mood was giddy with disbelief and joy. “I’ve lived my whole life for this moment,” dean of the College Penny Gill said. “It’s overwhelming. Now we have to get to work. It’s important that we don’t squander this energy and good will.”
Alumnae Ruth Cowan '51, Bonnie Stretch '61, and Anne Vittoria FP ’05 chatted happily after the close of the ceremony. “It was fabulous,” Cowan said. “I wanted to see it with young people. The next part of the journey is for them. They are going to be the leaders of the world.”
Stretch echoed Cowan’s sentiments. "Four years ago I was so depressed and discouraged. I wondered how we could have elected Bush again. I have kids in their 20s, and I was afraid of what the world would be like for them. Now I have hope."
Vittoria, who now works in the development office at Mount Holyoke, was also thrilled to be part of the Blanchard crowd. "I couldn’t think of a better place to share this very special occasion. It’s history."