I worked on the campaign of JFK—just a child, a Catholic and so proud when he was elected. I cried in my room for hours the day he died. I remained very active in campaigns through my early 20s, then life got complicated. Somehow, I lost my enthusiasm for politics. I voted but was detached. I saw Barack Obama's speech four years ago and found my curiosity sparked. I was surprised when he announced he would run for president this time around but hoped he might be heard.

I have been so proud the last few months to see so many respond to this bright and capable man. I was without words when they announced his victory (not really like me) and am so filled with hope for his presidency. I realize he is taking on a monumental task, and I trust that this man will surround himself with the people who can truly help and advise him as he navigates through our problems. I pray for courage and wisdom and hope for all of us. May all our elected officials rise to the occasion and help this extraordinary man set us on course to reclaim the American dream.

— Rosemary of El Sobrante, California

This time in history marks that we all are responsible for our own destiny. It's a time that we must take responsibility for ourselves, our families (especially our children) and our neighborhoods. This year and for years to come, we will be able to tell the story how we truly made it over. We can say that the dream has been realized and that the victory has finally been won!

— Davida of Opa-Locka, Florida

Four generations of my family campaigned for President-elect Obama. I saw my 86-year-old grandmother get up with the energy of a 25-year-old, happily traveling to four states—Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. She brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, expressing how she grew up in a much different America…one that was separate and very unequal and how she loves being a small part of changing that. My 66-year-old mother has leg problems, but she went with us and made phone calls. She even cooked her Arkansas chili to help inspire people to register to vote. This inauguration proves that at any age, at any income, racial, social background one can make a difference!

— Denise of Chicago

I'm a happily married, Canadian, middle-aged mother of two teenage sons. We've watched the presidential race and couldn't be more thrilled with the results. The United States isn't "our" country and Mr. Obama isn't "our" president, yet I feel so pleased (and relieved!) that he'll lead the United States into what feels like a better future. It can't be denied—the USA has a huge impact on this world. I'm reminded, yet again, that we are all connected. I suppose this is why I'm so happy about Obama's win.

— Audrey of Ajax, Ontario, Canada

I am a white woman who grew up in a "mixed area" of Detroit. My first best friends were black. As a child, you know the color of your skin is not the same, but it stops there. You just have fun together as all friends do. As you get older, you "learn" people hate because of the color of skin. White hates black; black hates white. It was a very unsettling time. As a mother, you pray you will teach your children a better way, understanding that if you rise above the color of a person's skin or other mindless chatter, we could make something great happen in this world.

Obama gives me that hope. This is a man of quiet dignity who, by the people of this land, has been bestowed the highest honor you can give a U.S. citizen. President-elect Obama has transcended all cultures [and] is supported and celebrated by the masses. President-elect Obama opens a new chapter in this county—one of courage, hope, dignity and equality for all the citizens of this United States of America.

— Dianne of Clarkston, Michigan

I am pleased as punch. I am happier than a mule with shoes on. I could do a dance in the middle of the Dan Ryan [Expressway], I am so happy. Obama does not just represent a black president to me. He epitomizes hope for all citizens, unity of all believers and nonbelievers, racial equality and the belief that we are living in a new-and-improved America.

— Mark of Columbus, Ohio

I was always a spoiled, bossy little thing, so back in preschool, I wanted to be president of the United States. Big dreams for a little girl of Japanese ancestry in laid-back little Hawaii. One of the classrooms had the portraits of presidents along the wall near the ceiling. As I studied George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and the rest, I understood even then that such a dream would never be, and I moved on to other things. The land of opportunity had borders I would never cross. I grew up surrounded by strong women, including women attorneys, and I saw on television and in movies other portrayals of tough, independent women. I was fortunate enough to take for granted that I could do and be anything I wanted—that I didn't have to fight the same fight of the generation before me. Practicing law was not a pipe dream, but the natural course of my life. What's more, people in my profession accept me as an equal player and not something to be looked over or around or through.

Barack Obama will do the same for children being born today. There is still a great challenge for our country to deal with our checkered history. It may be a terrible thing to say, but for the first time in my life, I can foresee the day when Americans will take for granted that anyone can become anything. The real genius of America is not our military or economy, but our people and those who are willing to face change and even push for it. America has reinvented itself before the world. We, as a nation are truly striving toward a more perfect union, from sea to shining sea.

— Gay of Mililani, Hawaii

For me, the inauguration means that there is still hope at a time of despair. I pray every day that my children will have a life filled with more happiness than sorrow, and although there are many things in life we cannot control, I feel that this election represents that we as a country are prepared to take control and work together to make things better. Although it would be easy to remain a pessimist given the gravity of the situation that our country and the world is in, the election of Barack Obama has allowed me to be an optimist and work hard to help things change.

My 12-year-old son has been so inspired by Mr. Obama, he has told me that [this] has made him realize that no matter who you are, you can succeed if you work hard enough. I truly believe that this will be one of those life-defining moments for many young individuals to push them to be more and do more with their lives. Seeing such inspiration in a child his age makes me less afraid of what the future may hold.

— Karen of Rockford, Michigan

I am beyond excited about the inauguration! January 20 is my sister's birthday and what a way to celebrate! We will both be in D.C. for this historic event. As children of immigrant parents, we are especially cognizance of this election and the opportunity that awaits. The funny thing is, I felt that this election helped me to become an adult. What I mean by this is that I am more aware of our country and the needs. I watch and read more news information and am looking for ways to stay involved and help my community.

My first rally was in California with Oprah, Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver. That was a turning (aha!) moment for me. I realized that this election was not just about Obama, but about all of us. It was my/our responsible to do what we can to make this country better. I was moved to get involved and encourage others to make their voices heard. Now, to be able to experience a president be inaugurated is an awe-inspiring moment that is not to be missed. I feel like I am a part of history!

— Belinda of Washington, D.C.

Words cannot express how excited I am about this inauguration. I am in an interracial marriage. I am Caucasian, and my husband is African-American. I always knew there was racism in the world, but I never had a chance to see it firsthand until I entered into my relationship with my husband. The ignorance I now see is absolutely horrible and very sad. One year ago, we had our first child—a little boy. I am so excited that now I can tell him he can be anything he wants to be some day because of President Obama. I now know my child can dream about being anything, and there is a chance now that [those dreams] could come true.

— Erin of Woodbridge, Virginia

This time in history means to me that all I was told as a child that could be achieved is actually achievable. I am so happy to be alive and experience this moment in time. I started at the beginning in Springfield, Illinois, and Iowa and clung to every victory and defeat. I feel like I was running right along with Obama. My family will have our own inaugural party.

I am a grandmother of five, and the oldest is a new college student. She and I were having one of our many conversations about what can happen when you truly apply yourself. My granddaughter is now able to understand that with hard work and credibility, she too can conquer the world. We know Barack's history will be chronicled in the history books. We need to think about where our own history will end up. This is the time to grab on to the wave and the stars, reach for our own piece of history while Obama claims his.

— Sheila of Sauk Village, Illinois

I bought tickets and reserved hotel rooms on October 30 because I knew in my heart that we were done with not being one nation. One of my friends said that I was confident. Indeed, I was. There are certainly still problems in this country, but we're agreeing to stick together to fix them—finally!

I am not of mixed race, but I am adopted. It's not the same thing, but I do understand what it's like not to fit in or to know "which group" you're a part of. My grandmother helped raise me, and my adoptive mother is from Missouri. I am confident that [Barack Obama's] family had a great influence on him. I lived it. I am grateful to be a part of this celebration. It's for everybody…all of us!

Clearly, as a white woman, I cannot completely understand what it means to people whose relatives were enslaved. However, I can understand that we're tired of the arguing and the fighting and being told that we hate each other—we just don't. Most of us, the human ones of us, want to celebrate the diversity and are willing to stick together to get there. It's going to take work, but we now have a great leader who is a hardworking man himself. He leads by example, and what an example he has set! I'm really proud of us for sticking together, and I am so looking forward to being there with 4 million of my fellow citizens as we embark on this journey.

— Judi of Seattle

This historic time in history means to me that I feel like I can wrap my arms around everyone with love, peace and joy. I am so excited for myself because I feel that I can start a new beginning in my life. The deep-down belief that I had in my guts that the people of America would prevail came true with President-elect Obama. I know that this is a new and wonderful emotional cleansing for us all, and this is why I am so very proud to be an American.

— Sandra of North Wales, Pennsylvania

This inauguration symbolizes so much to me. It is seeing hope come back into our country after years of feeling awkward about being an American. Hope that my first niece, who is biracial and born on the very day Obama was elected, will have doors open to her that so many Americans never got to see. It gives me hope that openly gay people, such as myself, can have faith that with our perseverance, we too may see acceptance and movement toward equality. This is an event that I am proud to take my children to in order to show them what it feels like to be part of a movement in American history.

— Aimee of Florence, Massachusetts

I'm a single parent of two teenage boys and have struggled with raising them on my own all these years. One will graduate this year from high school, and the other is a sophomore in college. This election means I can really mean it when I tell my sons, "You can be anything you want to be." No longer is the cliché correct that children of a single mother will become a statistic, because President Obama was raised by his grandparents and his mother, and his father left when he was 2 years old—and look at him now! I will be in Washington, D.C., to witness it live with three busloads of my closest and dearest campaign volunteers and friends from New Jersey. May God bless the Obamas and the United States of America.

— Sandra of West Orange, New Jersey