Philadelphia – Tears. Screaming. Strangers hugging. Fists pumping the air. And huge smiles. That’s what it looked like at the Center City Obama Campaign headquarters when, at 11:00 p.m. EST, Senator Barack Obama was declared the winner of the presidential election.
Then a young African-American man grabbed a bullhorn to address the crowd. “Fired Up?” he yelled. The crowd responded: “Ready to go!” The one with the bullhorn was Marshall Lane, 18, a first-time voter. He was elated that Obama has been elected. Lane became involved in the campaign this summer after attending a Bruce Springsteen concert in Philadelphia. He worked the phone banks, canvassed throughout the city, and even drove the van once. “This is extremely exciting! I can’t believe it!” he said. Lane needed a moment to compose himself. “Obama, he’s for everyone. He’s universal. He symbolizes America. He is us, and we are him.”
Everyone at campaign headquarters believed—believed in the movement, the message and the man. Seeing and hearing it announced, however, the crowd seemed to heave a collective sigh of relief. An older person hushed the crowd when Senator John McCain took the stage to deliver his concession speech. It wasn’t until then that the room was quiet enough to hear car horns honking outside. Later, Ruth Eldridge, a retired lawyer who had worked in Paris for years, gave a global perspective to the election. “America hasn’t been given the honor it deserves by us or by Europeans,” said Eldridge, of Center City. “With Obama as president, things will change.”
She noted that the diverse makeup of the room was evidence right now of the coming change. Eldridge was in Paris this summer, and after Obama’s speech in Berlin, her French friends were jealous that she was an American. “Obama is the greatest thing to happen to this country since FDR!” she exclaimed.
Chris Turner, 23, traveled to the United States a month ago from London. He took off a month from his job to volunteer for the campaign. Turner, who considers himself a historian, said he recognized the significance of this election. “The U.S. president is the leader of the free world, so it affects everyone of every nationality,” he said. “I came here to help elect Barack Obama.”
Less than a week ago, Center City Philadelphia was a sea of red, as the Phillies paraded down Broad Street following their World Series win. Mayor Michael Nutter was already predicting that the city would be celebrating again. This time, the town will be painted blue, and white, and red