Growing Up Multiracial

A Historic Inauguration Becomes an Occasion for Personal Reflection

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IT WAS 2:30 A.M. ON JAN. 20 when Berkeley Chapman ’11 arrived at the National Mall to await the swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama. After standing in line for several hours, the cold and the crowds caused her to return to her hotel room, where she could better hear Obama’s moving speech. But not even bitter weather and a burgeoning assembly could dampen the spirits of this enthusiastic political science major.

“We saw history being made,” says Chapman, president of the SU College Democrats. “You could feel electricity in the air and a sense of togetherness. It’s a very unique time to be in America.”

Chapman, who was in Washington during the university's Winter Convocation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, shared her elation with the Susquehanna community via a taped message. The confluence of the two events—the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and the inauguration of the nation’s first black president—was especially poignant for her. “What a wonderful occurrence it is to celebrate Dr. King and his vision of racial unity the day before a man with my same racial makeup is inaugurated into the highest office in our country,” she said in the taped address.

As the daughter of a black man and a white woman, she noted that the events of the week reminded her of an ancient Chinese proverb: To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.

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