Le Plus Beau Moment
Here’s what I wore to the Inaugural Ball, which I described to various reporters as “le plus beau moment de ma vie,” the best moment of my life.
The fact that our inaugural festivities took place in Avignon instead of Washington didn’t matter a bit; we watched America celebrate on a huge screen, in real time, we cheered for Aretha’s indomitable soul, commiserated with Michelle for those blocks walked in tortuous high heels, stood to sing the national anthem, and listened to our new President describe the hard work ahead with our hearts full of hope, just as you did.
There were many French people at our inaugural party, which surprised me. When I asked them why they’d come, they universally said that this was a very important moment for France, for Europe, for the world. It was a great reminder that it’s not just our private party, our personal celebration of having finally outgrown our dark and too-narrow past, that, in fact, the whole world is watching. There were a lot of reporters at the party too, which really surprised me. They wanted to know what the night meant to us, what we thought of Barack’s inaugural address, how we felt about having a black President, and contrary to what one would expect of the fashion-conscious French, not one asked what we thought of Michelle’s dress.
The music was good, with the French musicians launching valiantly into an eclectic selection of American favorites. First on the list was We Shall Overcome, a song I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, but sung last night with a twist: no more we shall overcome some day, but instead, a ringing “we have overcome today.” I don’t think any of us believed, deep in our hearts, that it’s all been overcome, but it felt good to sing. It felt very good.
The party rocked, the wine was excellent, as French wine is, and it flowed freely, American style. I heard myself saying that it was the best moment of my life, and I wondered privately if I might have been exaggerating a bit. Mais non, que nenni, and nope, not at all, I decided after a moment’s reflection. Because in truth I feel that the days formerly known as my personal best have been beautifully eclipsed by a day that is so manifestly the best for my country, and so much in the best interest of my world.
At the end of one interview the reporter asked me, just for the record, if I were American. “Américaine, et fière de l’être” I replied. American, and proud to be one. That felt good to say, and I can’t remember the last time I said it. Nor can I remember the last time everyone called the President of the United States by his first name. But although we’ve heard a lot of “go Barack” and “go Michelle” in the past few months, it is with the greatest pleasure that I now say “you go, Mr. President!”