Hope was the word of the day at the Cathedral of Hope on Tuesday morning when about 50 people gathered to watch Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
"Since his election, I had had such a rising hope in my heart for this country, that we can be leaders in the world again," said the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor for the Cathedral.
"I loved Bishop [Gene] Robinson’s words in his prayer on Sunday [before a pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial], when he asked God to remind us that Barack Obama is a human being and not the Messiah. And I am trying to keep that balance in mind. But God, I just have such hope."
Alan Dudley, another COH employee who was there to watch the inauguration, echoed Hudson’s emotions.
"This is history. It’s hope," Dudley said. "I saw a political cartoon that said today is like a first date with someone new after eight years of a dysfunctional relationship. I think that sums it up for me."
Anita Haddy said she has seen that hope shining in so many people, but added that she doesn’t want to see high expectations become unreasonable expectations.
"I just feel so much energy, so much hope. People are smiling; they have a spring in their step," Haddy said. "But it’s not going to be easy. I just hope [Obama] gets a chance to live up to that hope."
Across Oak Lawn at the Resource Center of Dallas, it was standing room only as about 50 people gathered inside the Blue Room for an Inauguration watch party hosted by the Resource Center, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, and LULAC Chapter 4871-the Dallas Rainbow Council.
The crowd snacked on refreshments, heckled when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on screen, debated the actual color of First Lady Michelle Obama’s dress, and erupted in cheers and hugs after Obama took the oath of office.
Many of those in attendance said they took off from work to watch the Inauguration.
"It’s a wonderful day," said Michael Moon, a former Stonewall president who attended the gathering at the Resource Center. "The dream’s not realized, but the door’s open. He’s [Obama’s] got a hard job ahead of him. Hopefully he can stand up to it."
Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore and former President Jesse Garcia were among a handful of people who turned their backs when evangelical minister Rick Warren delivered the invocation.
Obama has been criticized by many in the LGBT community for his selection of Warren, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage who’s compared homosexuality to incest and pedophilia.
"It’s better than me yelling at him," Moore said of her decision to turn her back.
Moore also said she was also "very sorry" that the invocation by Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, wasn’t aired on HBO during its coverage of the pre-Inauguration concert Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. The selection of Robinson to deliver the invocation at the concert was seen as an olive branch to the LGBT community in the wake of the Warren flap, but it’s unclear
why the gay bishop’s remarks weren’t televised.
In any case, Moore said her enthusiasm about the Inauguration wasn’t dampened.
"Today’s about Obama," said Moore, who was in the minority in the LGBT community that supported Obama in the Democratic Primary. "It’s like Christmas all over again. I almost started crying on the way over here, much less watching anything."
Garcia, who opted against traveling to Washington for the Inauguration, said he was thankful for the opportunity to watch it with his "family."
Garcia said he became politically active around the same time that President Bush took office in 2001.
"After eight years of trying to organize communities and register voters, we finally see a Democrat back in the White House," Garcia said. "This community needs to rejoice. This is a man who’s going to get us there.
"For the last eight years, gays and Hispanics have been put on the back burner," said Garcia, who also heads the Rainbow Council, Dallas’ gay LULAC chapter. "It’s a new day for both communities."
Back at the Cathedral of Hope, Chantel Wilson put Obama’s inauguration into a historical perspective. With her voice sometimes wavering with emotion, Wilson talked about what the day meant to her, as both an African-American and a same-gender-loving woman.
Obama’s inauguration, she said, answered "the prayers of a people, of my African-American ancestors, that God would, if not free them, then make the world a better place for their children and their children’s children.
"This day is a moment of answered prayer, a moment of renewed hope," she continued, saying that she chose to watch the inauguration at the church, which she attends, because doing so let her "feel a sense of connectedness, not only to a higher being, but also to my African-American ancestors who couldn’t even pray in public, who had to use prayer pots or hide behind quilts to pray. It makes me realize that I am a part of their answered prayers. It’s very heart-wearming."
Nelson said she also believes Obama’s inauguration is a huge step forward for the LGBT community.
"It opens the door," she said. "I’ve come one step forward as an African-American person, and this affords me more opportunity as a same-gender-loving person. I’m not standing in quicksand. The door has been open, and someone has lifted me.
"Hopefully one day, we’ll see not only a person of color minority or a woman, but also a same-gender-loving person in the White House," Nelson said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 23, 2009.