John Pierre, who immigrated from France 40 years ago and lives in Madisonville, felt more alive Tuesday than he had in years.
Over an frosty mug of Abita beer and dozen raw oysters at Buster’s Place in downtown Covington, Pierre watched from the bar as president elect Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s 44th president, and its first black commander in chief.
It was time to celebrate, he said, taking a sip. The day not only represented a change for America, but a change of how outsiders, such as his family back in France, view the country he calls home, he said.
“My brothers, my parents, my friends, my family, they are all excited,” he said. “America hasn’t gotten the best press over the past five or six years, but this gives America a lot of credit to be strong enough to have enough democracy to elect a black president.”
“It shows the rest of the world they practice what they preach,” he said. “It changes a lot of perceptions.”
Indeed. From rappers and actors to national and local politicians to men like Pierre, it seems many Americans favor Obama’s catchphrase, “Yes we can.”
Covington’s Rick Lopez, a 47-year-old offshore energy worker, agrees.
Just minutes before the inauguration started, Lopez walked into a Buster’s Place that besides a reporter, cook, hostess and bartender/owner, was empty.
“I’m here to see history in the making,” he said, plopping down on a barstool before turning to the bartender and adding, “Turn this up and turn off the radio.”
The televisions, six in all, were all tuned into the ceremony. Even ESPN broadcasted the event, said bar owner Stephen Lyon.
“This is going to be Kennedy-esque,” Lopez said.
Lopez took off his sunglasses, flung them on the bar and leaned back. He never ordered a thing.
“I just need to watch this. This is what we need. Hopefully it brings black and white together, especially in place like here. We’re in such a precarious time that this is needed. Poor, rich, black and white, we need to come together.”
It seems they did. About one million were estimated to watch the inauguration from the National Mall in Washington D.C. and hundreds of thousands packed Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the parade.
Pierre, however, almost missed it live.
Hoping to join the millions worldwide glued to television sets, Pierre set off to meet his son in Covington for a bite to eat and midday viewing of the ceremony.
He first went to another establishment, only to find a low whisper of a radio broadcast played in the coffee house.
He then left and peeked into other restaurant windows before finally setting his sights on CNN blaring from Buster’s Place.
When asked if he was there to watch history, Pierre hesitated.
“History?” he asked back. “It’s more than that. It’s hope. Finally.”