By Nina Burleigh
February 02, 2009 12:00 PM

“I knew I was going to be here, since I missed election night and watched in my apartment in Sweden by myself”

—VANESSA ALGOTSSON, 28, who is half Swedish and half African-American

“He represents all colors and races, and he speaks for all of us—universal humanity”

—MAKEBA HOPKINS-BLACK, 33 (center, with, from left, daughter Moniek, son Jzatiek and friend Mahlot Sansosa)

“It’s unbelievable to see the diversity and strength of America. That’s what makes America great”

—DAN RUGGIERO, 40 (second from right, with fellow Army reservists from Florida, from left, Damon Griggs, Josh Dasilva and Angela Mitchell)

“I was shocked at the election, because so far the United States only had white people as Presidents. I wanted the feeling of the Inauguration; in Korea when we have inaugurations, no one cares!”

—EUNJUNG YANG, 20 (right, with fellow South Korean exchange student Suna Yu)

“The moment he took his oath, I teared up. It says we have embraced diversity, and that’s very important to our family, for obvious reasons”

—GARY PENN, 48 (right, with Erik Oppers and their son Isaac)

“There’s a feeling of the turning of the tide. We’re elated. Our kids are elated. It’s our son’s first election”

—DEBORAH DILLAWAY, 59, a registered nurse from Minneapolis

“This should have happened a long time ago. But better late than never”

—YANA K.M., a Russian-born photographer who is married to an American

“I have led 20 Fourth of July tours in Washington, and I have never seen crowds like this”

—D.C. LEE, 60, a retired tour guide from Southport, N.C.


As a teen, LaVon Bracy helped desegregate her high school in Gainesville, Fla., where she endured verbal abuse and a physical assault. “I went through the entire year not having one person ever speak to me,” says Bracy (center, with, from left, Alfray Moore, husband Randolph Jr., son Randolph III and daughter LaVon). “If I went to the library, it immediately emptied.” So what does Obama’s inauguration mean to her? “I think Jan. 20 makes me heal just a little bit more. I did not feel it would happen in my lifetime.”