Introductory Remarks at Presidential Inauguration Viewing on Low Plaza

January 20, 2009

Every now and then in life, you get the opportunity to be part of something you can be certain will be remembered for ages to come. Today the entire world, it seems, is convening to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

It feels as if history has all come together for this one brilliant moment, everything resolved in the best possible way and offering us the potential for a much better world. It is a certainly a moment never to be forgotten.

Of all the people in the world who have the best of reasons to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama, none has more than Columbia University. President Obama is an alumnus, a 1983 graduate of Columbia College. It is a pleasure to listen to the new President, whose thoughts and demeanor manifest what this University stands for - the virtue of a life committed to understanding and undaunted by the complexity of life.

I must say one more thing: This is also a moment in which (as Kennedy said) the "torch has been passed to a new generation," which is you. It is, therefore, a privilege to be here with you, at this moment and in this setting.

And, so, we might say, Stand Columbia and let the world share with us our pride in being part of this defining moment in history, unembarrassed about our high hopes for the future, and glad to be part of an institution with a commitment to learn actively and to act wisely.

My wife, Jean, and I would like to invite all students today to join us for refreshments at the Presidents House immediately following the inauguration ceremony.