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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Area Residents Optimistic About Obama Administration




Last week the Times-News gathered together a group of area residents to talk about the inauguration Tuesday of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama — the first African-American elected to the nation’s top post.
We talked to more than a dozen people ranging from 4 years old to 60, from varying ethnic backgrounds, and including some who originally supported candidates other than Obama during last year’s presidential campaign.
Now, however, they all share a mood of optimism — of hope, of faith — for what Obama’s presidency will bring to the nation. Each spoke of a sense of inspiration — and many urged Americans to give the new president time for achievement. None had harsh words about President Bush as he leaves office.
Here are some of those we talked to, and some of their thoughts.

Erica Yoon —

Edward Hayes, 60 and an Eastman Chemical Co. employee, said: “A lot of people of color laid down their life for change. Today for us to sit here and know that change has come about — a person of color has been put in this position, to represent the country...
“My main hope today is that we all as a nation accept this man, and if he does a great job, give him praise for doing it — and if he falls by the wayside every now and again, don’t just step on his head. I’ve not seen a man in my time in the White House who somebody couldn’t have thrown rocks at.
“The greatest man that I give praise to as being president is Kennedy. I was 12 years old when he was assassinated, and that was one of the saddest days of my life. I believed he was working for not just some of the people, but all of the people. I feel that Obama will do the same, and I hope that he will. It’s going to take all of us to stand up and play a role.”
Deborah Todd, 50 and a court reporter, said Obama’s election puts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream in perspective. Todd was on vacation in Jamaica on Election Day and ended up at a restaurant full of locals to watch the returns come in on television. When Obama’s win became evident, “it was just jubilation. It really made you proud. I feel like this is a very optimistic time in our country, and people have just opened their minds and their hearts.”
This was the first time Todd’s children — ages 18 and 20 — were able to participate in a presidential election.
“It’s been so exciting for them. The buzz on college campuses this fall was tremendous. They really feel like they’re a part of it and part of change — and that their votes counted.”
She added: “I think it says a lot that with all the problems we’re having right now, there’s a sense of hope, a sense of optimism, and people are ready for some change. I think this is going to be a spark plug to get things going. I think his inaugural speech is going to be awesome. I can’t wait for that. He’s a spark for our whole country. It’s like a shot in the arm. This transition is even unlike any o t h e r. ”
Jim Miller, 68 and a retiree, voted for John McCain, partially because he had concerns Obama wouldn’t be able to deliver on campaign promises.
“It’s starting to look like he’s trying to get these things done,” Miller said. “The main thing I could say right now is, ‘He’s our president, pray for him, get behind him — he’s our president.’ ”
Miller marched in Eisenhower’s second inaugural parade in 1957 when he was attending Georgia Military Academy.
Mark Kilgore, 35 and a city parks and recreation supervisor, is a Democrat and was “a little surprised and shocked” on Election Night.
“I was excited at the same time and hoping that America will unite — and I think he is a big uniter, and I think that will happen. I am concerned. ... I hope that America doesn’t expect a miracle overnight. I don’t blame it all on anybody, but in the last eight years our economy, employment, health care and other issues ... our country is in a crisis right now. And I don’t want everybody, after one or two years, to say he’s not turned anything around.
“This is going to take some time. I think he’s getting good people around him and he will do a great job, but we need to be patient and give him time. It’s not going to be overnight. We’ve had eight years of one party. Let’s give eight years of something else and see what happens and if it turns around. But it’s not going to be an easy job.
“But it’s an exciting time. In his Cabinet selections he’s crossed party lines. He’s getting a little bit of everybody — he wants everybody’s input, because it’s going to take everybody to unite this country. One person can’t do it. We’ve got to all get on board.”
Judah Swagerty, 32 and with Good Time Property Solutions, voted for the first time in November. “I think if Obama could sum it up he would say ‘I am blessed for the idea that is using me.’ Because growth is a part of life. If we aren’t willing to grow, everything dies off. So congratulations to America for being willing to g r o w. ”
DeLisa Hale, 52 and a social activist, said she never doubted Obama would win. “The great thing ... is actually, the times picked Obama. Obama did not pick the time. His message was ‘Change you can believe in.’ Right there is the inspiration. Anytime you have a message of change and hope — and the word ‘believe’ it carries a lot of power.
“Words are very powerful. That’s one reason he had so many people behind him. And not just Americans. The whole world has been inspired by him. That’s phenomenal right there. I like his vision, his passion. He does not want to divide. He wants to unite. I do believe as a Christian in change and hope and that love conquers all. But (racism) won’t just stop with Obama’s presidenc y. ”
Xena Huff, 11 and a student at Robinson Middle School and member of New Vision Youth, said it was a good thing seeing Obama win after hearing a steady refrain before the election that he would not win.
“Actually seeing that he did win, it’s a really good thing. To think that he’s actually going to be the first black president, that’s a good thing. I just hope America sticks with him and doesn’t give up. I think it’s going to change things for me, compared to my parents when they were growing up. I can experience that things are changing. I think it’s going to make people really think about things they’ve done toward other people.”
Dimingo Hale, 29 and a member of the military who’s served in Iraq, said he’s excited about the nation’s future under Obama’s presidency. “I believe that (President-elect) Barack Obama will definitely make some concrete changes for our country’s economy, hopefully smart ones that will benefit all aspects of society. I am looking forward to seeing this ‘change.’ Obama wants the troops to come home. However, he now has wisdom to leave when the Iraqis are able to govern themselves.
“I think the money that we are currently spending on the war will be put to much better use under Obama’s administration, such as clean energy and fixing the economy. I think other countries ... will begin to look up to America again and we will regain some of the respect we’ve lost.
“Isn’t it something that America has an African-American president only 40 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination? Dr. King had a dream, and President-elect Obama is that dream. Look how far we have come in two short generations.”
Gena Jahangir, 48 and a home health worker, said she was working but could see election coverage on television the night Obama won the presidency — and was struck by how quickly the election returns mounted in Obama’s favor. “I let the Lord pick the president, I left it up to him.”
She said seeing coverage of Obama’s swearing-in on Tuesday will make her very happy — but she holds Bush, as a president who’s been elected twice and served eight years through difficult times, in high regard. “He’s our president. We have to respect him.”
Johnnie Mae Swagerty, 49 and New Vision Youth director, said she has three main hopes for Obama’s presidency: “It’s unity for the whole country, support each department he is going to assign, for everybody and love for e v e r y b o d y. ”
James “Moose” Henry, 60 and a city parks and recreation employee, said Obama’s election is a change whose time had come. “It’s been time for a change for a long time. We need to stop looking back and look ahead. We’ve been looking back long enough. It’s time to go the other direction and keep going forward and look for better things in life. It might not get better in the rest of my life, but I want my grandkids to see a better life. I hope the world gets on the right track and stays that w a y. ”
Pastor Matthew Thomas: “I was a baby born in Greeneville, Mississippi, so my family had to go through the trials of segregation. I think this inauguration and people coming together to elect Barack Obama is a healing process for folks like us who had to go through those times in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Thomas added; “As an African American, watching what is going to happen when (President-elect) Obama is sworn in is kind of like seeing Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech come to life, or it’s like the beginning chapter of his words becoming reality. I get emotional thinking about where we were and now where we are going, and it’s all because people from different backgrounds, different races and different walks of life decided to make a change. It’s like (Dr. King’s) speech has come to life.”