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89 Years Young, Voting for Change

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Ruby Boyd knows exactly how long it takes for change to come around. The Philadelphia native attended segregated schools, suffered through severe discrimination, and remembers when a place called Horn & Hardart was the only restaurant in town that served Blacks.

 She has also lived long enough to witness the first African-American run for president. Boyd, who will turn 90 in March, voted for Barack Obama in her condominium in Wynnefield Heights, a suburban neighborhood of West Philadelphia. She notes it wouldn’t have mattered if she had had to travel far or if the weather had been bad. “I value my vote,” says Boyd. “As long as I’m alive and can think of it, I’ll vote.”

 Boyd has been voting every since she could, but other elections haven’t held the same excitement, especially for people in her generation. “I am amazed. I never thought this could happen,” she says, referencing an African-American man running for president. “I’m glad that I’ve lived long enough to see it.”

 African-Americans will have a large impact on this presidential election. In cities like Philadelphia, which is 43 percent African-American, record turnout among those voters can help push the state toward a Democratic candidate, as it did in 2004. Boyd noted that many people of other races will also help elect her candidate, Barack Obama.

 According to 2007 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, there are nearly 200 million Whites in the United States, while there are nearly 41 million Blacks. Those numbers do not include persons of mixed race, but they do illustrate that Obama’s support must be broad-based in order for him to win.

 This year, Boyd needed an aide when she voted, as her eyesight is very poor. She said she had always supported Obama, though it was tiring waiting for this day because the election had gone on for so long. She’s proud of both Obama and his wife, Michelle. “He’s a brilliant young man,” says the great-grandmother. “He has the temperament, and he never wavered from running his campaign with dignity. I’m just so proud.”

 Young voters are registered in historic numbers for this election, but Boyd doesn’t think they view it the same way. “They’ve gone to integrated schools all their lives,” she notes. “They haven’t had the experiences I’ve had.” Boyd usually goes to bed rather early. Tonight, even if she dozes off, she says she will “keep one eye and one ear open, because I want to know when he wins.”

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