Obama's historic feat seen by some area residents as advancing King's dream

November 06, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Craig MacLean watched election returns Tuesday night with a feeling of gratification for the reactions of African-Americans at the election of Barack Obama as the nation's next president.

"Clearly, there were many who never believed it would happen in their lifetime," said MacLean, executive director of Horizon Goodwill Industries in Hagerstown.

MacLean said he feels strongly that the election of a black president is a partial fulfillment of the Rev. Martin Luther King's dream, which was spelled out in a 1963 speech in Washington, D.C.

"For all of us, this is an affirmation," MacLean said, no matter a person's race. "We've done well by ourselves."

Training and employment opportunities are vital to MacLean's agency, and he said he hopes that Obama will be able to cope with the resource stream that has all but dried up in the current economy.


"I'm hoping that people will gain some confidence in the system," as a result of the election outcome, he said.

Hagerstown Police Officer Brett McKoy wasn't even born when King made his speech 45 years ago, but he said he was feeling close to that sentiment on the day after the election.

"I am glad our country is at a point where a person of color can have a position of authority in the White House," McKoy said. "It is a source of pride for me."

Pastor Ed Poling of the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren has been active for many years in the Interfaith Coalition in Washington County.

"Obama excites me in his ability to bring people together," Poling said. "It gives me hope for healing."

Poling said that when he was a teenager growing up in Northern Virginia in the early 1960s, race became an important issue. He said he can recall efforts then to find a way to bring people together to talk about race.

"This feels like a milestone to me," Poling said.

Maureen Grove, executive director of Girls Inc., said she believes Obama will identify with the needs of children since he has young children himself.

"We had programs for our girls where they learned about the candidates," Grove said. Called "She Votes," the program culminated with a mock election, which Obama won by a landslide, she said.

Pete Callas, a veteran and former state delegate in Annapolis, said the outcome of Tuesday's election came as no surprise to him.

"It sends a message that we are united and born equal," Callas said. "This is part of Martin Luther King's dream, but it goes beyond that."

Callas said that Obama has a tough road ahead and said he hopes the new president will surround himself with good people as he begins to govern.

MacLean had a final thought: The election is over and now all can begin to focus on what is really important, which is making America a better place for all its citizens.

Local students divided on whether Obama will bring change America needs

Tuesday's presidential election ended in a landslide victory for Barack Obama. Local students interviewed Wednesday agreed Obama's election is a historic event that will bring change to the nation, but did not agree on whether it is the change America needs.

Colleen Ayers, 24, of Chambersburg, Pa., said she was unsure whether Obama can live up to expectations.

"Obama's victory represents a change for our country; it's a moment in history that this nation, and the world for that matter, will never forget," said Ayers, a freshman at Hagerstown Community College.

"But Obama has to go into his presidency knowing that he has a lot of people that are waiting for him to fail," she said. "I'm curious to see what he can do for the American people and our country."

Whitney Schroyer, 18, a freshman at HCC, agreed that the election was a great moment in history, but doesn't believe that Obama is the right man to lead the country.

"This election is great as far as the history made, but I don't agree with Obama's morals on some of his issues and I feel he doesn't have the experience needed to lead this country in the right direction," Schroyer said.

Brandon Benson, 17, a senior at Washington County Technical High School, said it is the possible loss of jobs that has him worried.

"I believe many blue collar Americans could soon be out of work due to the coal mines that could potentially be shut down" with Obama in the White House, he said. "It would be discouraging to see so many jobs lost, jobs which are depended on by those people to support their families."

"I'm glad Obama won," said Corey Monroe, 21, a sophomore at Hagerstown Community College. "He won because people needed a change after the eight years of President Bush."

Monroe said John McCain "represented an extension of the Bush Administration in many people's eyes. A concern I had, and I feel many people had, about McCain was his choice for his vice president."

"I feel many people were wary of (Sarah) Palin becoming president if something happened to McCain," Monroe said.

Mary Reinhardt, 22, who takes classes at Towson University through the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, said she believes that Obama was the change America needed.

"Obama is a good step for the country," said Reinhardt, who said she was discouraged at how much Obama's race was an issue leading up to the election.

"The election should be about the issues and choosing the right candidate to lead the country," she said.

-- By Mikkel Wallech

for The Herald-Mail

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