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Locals react to Obama’s win in election

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By Jay Cason

While many welcomed Barack Obama as the 44th president, his election last Tuesday is especially meaningful to black citizens.

“I think it’s great, I really do,” said Thomas Allen. “This is great for those who came through the past tribulations.”  

Allen grew up in Anderson County at a time when he and other local black students were bused out of county to attend high school.

“I never would have thought I’d see a black person elected president,” Allen said. “It was 40 years ago that Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream,’ and it has come true. All things are possible.”

Lawrenceburg City Councilwoman Rose Cunningham didn’t think it would happen in her lifetime, either.

“No, I didn’t,” she said. “But my grandmother used to tell me, ‘One of these days there will be a black president, but I didn’t think I’d live to see it.”

Cunningham said her 7-year-old granddaughter was also excited about the election.

“She said now (little brother) Alex can be president, too,” Cunningham said. “And I said sure he can, the door is open.”    

 “We need this thing, blacks and whites,” said Curtis Harvey, another local who had to leave the county for a high school education.

Another resident, Geneva Howard, said she believes Obama is the right man at the right time.

“Because of things going on around the world,” she explained. “He reaches out to everyone. I didn’t vote for him because he is black, I voted for him because I think he can rebuild what this (Bush) administration has broken up.”

Howard said she wishes that her mother, Lucille Washington, were still around to witness the election. Washington was somewhat of a rarity among local black citizens.

“She was a Republican. [Republican] Sen. John Sherman Cooper and [Republican] Sen.Thruston Morton used to stop by and see her if they were in this area.

“She passed away Sept. 16. I’d have loved for her to see this day.”

Anderson County natives Gary and Wanda Brown, who now reside in Versailles, travel across the nation as “curators, exhibitors and messengers of the African-American experience.” Saturday, Gary Brown described his feelings about the election of Obama.

“I was at the University of Minnesota immediately after the election,” he said. “There is a place near the campus called Tom’s Drugstore. It is run by a gentleman from India, who came to America because he saw it as the land of opportunity.

“He has a space in the store for college kids, faculty and retired faculty to meet around a pot belly stove and talk about issues. I saw a lot of excitement from the young people there. They see Barack Obama as a return to what our nation started out to be.”

Brown said his trip to Minnesota confirmed what he had observed before the election in Ohio.

“I saw the same thing in Cincinnati. Some young people put their college careers on hold to work on his campaign because they believe in Barack Obama. They said this young man is going to do things for the country that have never been done before.

“I think we have finally moved forward. He has inspired all of us that we can accomplish anything. I think race will continue to be an issue, but not as overt. No longer will blacks be able to use race as an excuse.”

“This is a great day,” said Barry C. Johnson, pastor at Lawrenceburg’s Evergreen Baptist Church, as he addressed his congregation at Sunday’s Men’s Day service.

“The election of Barack Obama signals the answer to a prayer that has been lifted decades ago by people who believed in the American promise.”

Johnson said before he was assassinated in 1968, Robert Kennedy predicted that “40 years from now you’ll probably see a black president of the United States.”

“He didn’t get to see it in a mortal state, but I believe he is looking down at us today,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that Obama’s election means more than limiting children’s horizons by telling them they can grow up to be president.

“It goes beyond that,” he said. “Now you can tell your children they can grow up to be whatever they want to be.

“Through hard work and faith in God, you can do anything you put your mind to. This had nothing to do with race. It had to do with God allowing a door to be opened that had been closed.”