Obama victory signals new push for unity
Americans elect their first black president and deal a blow to an era of Republican ascendancy.
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Obama's childhood, spent mostly in Hawaii, included four years abroad in Indonesia, adding to his multicultural persona. As the new face of the United States, Obama represents a profound change to the rest of the world and the prospect of an improved American image. Throughout the campaign, Obama promised more emphasis on diplomacy and a willingness to talk to America's enemies.Skip to next paragraph
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Across America itself, voters of all ideological stripes – including McCain voters – spoke with pride of the nation's historic step.
"What I'm most excited about is how greatly he would affect the image of black people in America – a first family with a first lady who is extremely intelligent and fashion forward, with two kids, and a man who is all about everyone working together to make the United States a better place," says Nakia White, an Oakland, Calif., resident who is black and who works at a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
"I don't really know if the nation as a whole is changing, going liberal," she continues. "I don't think this proves that suddenly race relations are [fixed], all discrimination or prejudice is gone. I just think it means there was a black man who was able to touch across the color lines."
What does it mean to Faith Kinyua, a Kenyan with a green card living in Oakland?
"To me, it's that America is actually what I always dreamed it was. Color has no meaning and Obama has proved it. Can you slap me? If I'm dreaming, I do not want to wake up," she says, moments after the networks called the race for Obama. "Do you know what this does for kids in Africa, whose parent died of AIDS? It's not just black America, it's blacks all over the world."
Then she says: "Now they have to protect him," meaning the Secret Service. Several people in the generally jubilant crowds in Oakland mentioned their worry that he will be assassinated.
Not all McCain voters were ready to embrace Obama's election. Anna Marie Hulma, a white resident of Alameda, Calif., says she started out as a Hillary Clinton supporter and vowed not to support the Democrats if she was not the nominee. She rejects the notion that the election signals that the country has changed much.
"It seems to be a pendulum – it swings one way, people get tired with that, then people vote the other way," she says. Obama, she adds, strikes her as more like "a white man's image of a black man, rather than an actual representation of what I have seen of the black community."
A. Raven, a white Berkeley mother of two, is relieved that Obama won. "It's truly an inspirational moment for all Americans," she said. "Barack Obama reflects the real America, he reflects my American family, and even just the idea of what you call him – he's biracial. I have many members of my family who are biracial and that's what they look like. He's a true American."
– Staff writer Ben Arnoldy contributed to this report from Oakland, Calif.