A crowd of nearly 500 gathered in the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater in San Jose this morning to witness a historic moment, when the country's first black president was sworn into office.
Students, families and friends packed in with excitement as the live viewing of the ceremonies in Washington, D.C., was broadcasted on a movie theater-size screen for the "Be the Change" inauguration event and community forum.
Councilwoman Nora Campos hosted the event and was joined by city leaders, including Mayor Chuck Reed. Campos opened the event with an impassioned speech about the implications of the Obama presidency and the way in which his "Yes We Can" attitude can apply to the city of San Jose, which she said must unite despite differences in order to serve the common good.
"Today, San Jose, we make the commitment that (our children's) success will be our true legacy," Campos said to applause. "San Jose, yes we can!"
The crowd eagerly awaited the viewing, with massive cheers erupting at the first sight of President Obama and his wife Michelle on screen.
And, as if standing with Obama and the rest of the people gathered in Washington, the crowd in the San Jose theater bowed their heads and prayed during the invocation before standing as Vice President Joe Biden and Obama took the oaths of their respective offices.
Obama's inaugural speech was then greeted with cheers, clapping and answers of "Yes" when Obama spoke of addressing education, job loss and the economy.
An electricity moved through the theater as Obama declared, "We are ready to lead once more," and the crowd stood in celebration.
Despite Obama's acknowledgment of the country's problems, a giddy feeling encapsulated the San Jose crowd as they watched the country's 44th president sworn in to office.
Campos said the viewing event, which was followed by group dialogue sessions facilitated by American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley, was an important part of inauguration day as the country moves forward past hard times.
"I think the significance of holding this event here in Mexican Heritage Plaza, to be able to view this with many community members in the United States of America, is so that we as a society can move forward and support the president of the United States of America and the visions that he has and be behind him as he leads us to greatness," Campos said.
She said the number of young people in the crowd showed the willingness of future generations to lead the country as "a great nation."
Reed said he remembers the days of Brown versus the Board of Education, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and now the inauguration of the country's first black president.
"It's a terrific day," he said. "I'm very happy to see President Obama in office."
Reed said Obama's call for service was inspiring and noted the local implications of the president's mentioning of wind and solar energy.
"I especially liked his commitment to harnessing the sun and the wind, because that'll be good for Silicon Valley," Reed said.