People around the world gathered together to watch the inauguration of America’s first black president Tuesday, especially Americans living abroad who wanted to share the historic moment with their fellow citizens.
From sheep and goats being slaughtered in Kenya to black-tie galas through Europe and festive celebrations in towns across the world that claim some link to Obama, however minor, like Obama, Japan and Indonesia, the world celebrated a historic moment.
In Dubai hundreds of people gathered to watch Obama’s swearing-in ceremony and listen to his speech at an event hosted by Democrats Abroad, the international arm of the Democratic party.
“Americans want to feel connected to Americans tonight,” explained Chris Hansen, chair of Democrats Abroad UAE, adding that there were also several expatriates married to Americans and some locals in attendance. “The whole world is excited.”
Former President Jimmy Carter’s son, Jake Carter, in town for business was among the crowd cheering on the new president as he swore to uphold the constitution.
“I want to be with Americans at this special time,” he told AlArabiya.net, noting that he came to Dubai a day earlier than planned to watch the event with his fellow Democrats.
About 200 people watched the ceremony live via CNN on a huge screen, cheering when Obama took his oath using his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, and booing whenever the camera panned to show former president George W. Bush.
Kojo Dufu, a black American from New York who moved to Dubai just eight weeks ago managed to find out about the inaugural event for expats and told AlArabiya.net he would be throwing a “Bush Be-Gone after party.”
“America is reborn, we need irrational exuberance!” he said.
In his speech Obama referred to the need to revise American energy policy in an indirect reference to Middle East policy and said he hoped to improve relations with the Muslim world.
For Arab-American Shoueb Rifai Obama's first speech as president gave him the opprtunity to see a preview of what the president's agenda might look like in the region.
"I want to see some hints of his foreign policy," he explained to AlArabiya.net. "I feel comfortable with what he said about the Muslim world; I'm optimistic."
Grace Amondi and Judy Njuki were particularly excited about Obama’s inauguration because as Kenyans they felt a particular affinity to him because “he’s half Kenyan.”
Obama’s father was born in Amondi’s hometown Kogelo and went to school with her father, she told AlArabiya.net, explaining that she took the day off of work and sought out a place to watch the speech. “We have to be here, it’s history!”
“We’re really proud of him,” added Njuki.
African-American Sarah Peoplesperry, who moved to Dubai from Virginia five months ago, participated in the march on Washington led by Martin Luther King and heard him predict there would be a black president in 25 years.
“It is awesome to see it in my lifetime,” she told AlArabiya.net. “It’s a historic event.”
“It’s a joy to be with other Americans and Democrats who believe in the same mission of Barack Obama,” she said, explaining why she came to the event.
The inauguration was the largest ever, with estimates of two to three million people attending the ceremony in Washington, D.C. and countless millions tuned to their televisions and computers around the world.
“The most stressful thing was managing the amount of people,” said Liz Katkin, vice chair of Democrats Abroad UAE, told AlArabiya.net. “There’s so much excitement about Obama. Every event in the world is sold out!”
She said they had hoped for 100 to 150 responses and were overwhelmed when they got 300 RSVPs and had to turn people away.