January 20th, 2009
07:06 PM ET

We all feel American today

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/20/obama.international.reaction/art.obama.speech.gi.jpg caption="Barack and Michelle Obama pictured before the inauguration Tuesday in Washington."]
Julie Chambon
Aspiring French journalist and Parisian resident

Another day in the coldness of Paris. Another day in the French subway, but I can feel something different and it has nothing to do with the weather, nothing to do with my everyday life.

People talk, a lot. Obama is on everyone’s lips, his face on every single newspaper’s front page.

I’m on a bus, back from work in the Parisian suburbs where riots erupted in 2005.

I’m listening to “Yes we can” by Will.I.am on my iPod, thinking of the excitement there must be in DC’s streets.

A small group of 20 year old guys from the suburbs, Arabics, blacks and a white, are usually loud but today they are quiet. They are watching Obama’s speech live on their cell phones. “I’d like to be American today,” they say to each other.

An old black lady seated next to them smiles and tells them, “Obama is an example for you to follow. He’s a great man. I hope things will change in the world.”

“Too bad he’s not our president!” one answers. The whole bus agrees and we politely start laughing together. I even heard some say, “Yes we can!”

The young mother in front of me reminds us, “He’s not our president. He won’t solve the problems we have here in France. Unfortunately, he’s not the president of the world!”

The scene was amazing. If this had happened in an American movie, I would not have believed it. It was 5 minutes of my life I will never forget.

Why do we feel so concerned? Why do so many young people who don’t vote in French elections feel so excited about Obama? Since he won the election, we expect a lot from him.

The French are in front of their TV’s, shivering, discussing the future and the hope for change. He restores the USA as a friend-of-the-world nation, focused on international relationships and human rights’ respect.

We hated you when you went to war with Iraq. We are all made up today with you.

Thank you America for bringing to the world the opportunity for reconciliation. Believing in mankind is my religion. Hope has a face today. May it last as long as possible

Excuse my English. Excuse my tears. We all feel American today.

Filed under: Global 360° • Inauguration
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Mike in NYC

    Julie, regarding the 2005 riots - how do you feel about your country slowly being given away?

    January 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  2. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT



    January 20, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  3. Timothy Gibson

    Yet, when a minority was held out from the inaugration process, when Rev. Gene Robinson was not shown on HBO at the Lincoln Memorial Event, but Rick Warren spoke to the nation, not all of us felt the deep American spirit that others felt. Again, the LGBT community has been left out, kicked to the curb.

    January 20, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  4. Isabel, RJ, Brazil

    Excellent article.

    Here in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, today was holiday. Today is the day of the patron saint of the city.
    But in all corners of the city, Obama prevailed. So it seemed that it was a holiday because of Obama.
    S.Sebastião that we forgive!

    January 20, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    My daughter is studying in France for a semester and she listened to the inauguration and said that it seemed everyone around her was interested and hopeful as they listened to Obama. I hope Obama can restore our good name as a nation; and keep us respectable as he extends the arm of friendship to those who are looking for freedom and hope. My daughter said she was so proud of being American during the inauguration and so glad that Obama was having such a good effect on how people in Europe feel about Americans. I hope this continues for a very long time.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  6. asa johansson

    What is so great about another 44 so or other man in the oval office. Hyperbolic hot air, anyone?

    January 20, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  7. C.Taylor

    I am amazed at the historic events today and hope this leads to a change in the American way of thinking. I must ask...is another American on the way in the White House? Michelle Obama appears to be pregnant.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
  8. Judy Proctor

    What is wrong with you people. President Obama has just been inagaurated and you sit there waiting to see if he fails. He is one on the angels that is sent to make a difference. Instead of waiting to see how what an amazing difference he can make you question, you judge!
    We in Canada and aroung the world could only dream of such an individual to be our leader.

    Count your self as blessed. I am sick and tired of your negative reporting.

    Judith Proctor

    January 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
  9. Lori Newbrough, St. Louis

    I am very proud of America today. I graduated college in France with an International Business degree, therefore I have many friends around the world. It is nice to hear all the wonderful outlooks of other countries, especially France :).

    I left America before 9/11 and came back after the war started. Needless to say I came back to a negative, bitter country and rightfully so. I feel a glorious postive energy for the first time since I have returned to the States. GO OBAMA!!!!! Thanks for bringing our hope back.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  10. Miranda H.B. CA

    Ms. Chambon,

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece, may France learn from her citizens as well as you look to and join America's celebration of The 44th President of these United States, Mr. President Obama.



    January 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  11. Rikki, Fargo, ND

    Wow this is truly wonderful! I keep saying that I don't just want to say that it is a great day to be an American...it is but more so! It is a great day to be alive and to get to experience this and to live in this exciting time!

    January 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  12. Pati Mc


    One of my very best friends in French and lives also in Paris. She and I were instant messaging during the festivities.

    She relayed to me that she was leaving work early to get home in time to see President Obama sworn in. Her mother in Calais was also planning to watch. They both love Obama. Me too!

    At no other time in my life has a Presidential Inauguration been a global event. It is the most amazing experience I have ever lived thorugh and I cherish being able to share it with a dear friend from France as well as the rest of the world.

    Today we, as a global cimmunity are all American and as a US citizen we welcome you. Thank you for your kind thoughts for the USA. We are all hoping right alongside each other, hand in hand.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  13. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    God Bless you Julie !. Even Americans feel a bit more American today after eight years of G W Bush Red Neck neo-con FASCIST rule !

    January 20, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  14. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Further proof my ancestors were right to get out of France three centuries ago.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  15. Clarence Albuquerque

    Julie, what a beautiful recollection of your experience. We can only hope that we ourselves (as Americans) are stirred to make change part of our own public and personal lives. President Obama is a catalyst and example we can only try to follow and follow thru with.

    January 20, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  16. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    God Bless you Julie ! Even Americans feel just a bit more American today. I can assure you of that :-).

    January 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm |