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Seniors in awe of Obama's victory

Some called their children to tell them what they already knew. Others stretched their arms high in the air as if they had just crossed the finish line. And some cried quietly.

No matter the reaction to news that Sen. Barack Obama would be the next president of these United States, older men and women in Lexington, black and white, were united Wednesday in a sense of wonder that they had lived long enough to see the manifestation of dreams deferred.

"I was thrilled," said Morris Engles, 83, who was driving a van of seniors home from the Lexington Senior Citizens Center. "I stayed up and saw it all. It was unbelievable."

But while Engles was filled with excitement, Harry Sykes, 80, a former Lexington city commissioner, was overwhelmed.

"I was emotional," he said, his voice breaking and tears rolling again on during the retelling. "Bear with me."

It was the emotion I expected, not necessarily from a man who had been on the forefront of politics in Lexington. But tears are an outward form of joy, sometimes the only measurement of that inner joy. I understood.

After composing himself, Sykes said, "Some of the things I went through, trying to buck the race thing here in Lexington, flashed before my eyes. To see that man come through like this, I said this is a great day for America and one that I never thought I would see. I just told all my family that this is one of the greatest things that has happened in my lifetime. They can reap the benefits."

Bob Orbach, 74, had supported Sen. Hillary Clinton until he heard Obama give an inspiring speech. "I was hooked," he said. But instead of celebrating for himself, Orbach thought of his African-American friends when the news broke that Obama would soon have "president" before his name.

"I feel a great deal of pride, but I can't put myself in your shoes," he said. "I hope I'm close.

"We have hope now that no matter how insurmountable things can be, they can be surmounted. I look forward to great things from him," he said.

No one believes having a black man elected president will solve all of our social and cultural ills. It will take a long time for a lot of very motivated people to bring about the change Obama promised.

But these Lexingtonians, on the day after the vote was announced, all wanted to see more attention paid to health care, to the needs of the elderly, to the education of the young, and to reuniting this country.

Vince Edwards, who was getting a trim at Exquisite Belvedere Barber Shop and Styling Salon, wasn't an Obama fan in the beginning, believing Obama too inexperienced to weather the tough times that lie ahead.

But, he said, Clinton toughened Obama during the primaries.

Then, in Chicago's Grant Park Tuesday night, Edwards saw the beginnings of that unification that Obama promises in the faces of the people there of all races and cultures. All were as enthusiastic as he.

"McCain's crowd was not very diverse," he said. "There was a level of inspiration and of hope in the Obama crowd."

That excitement is just what young people need, said Emma Trujillo, 80, as she was leaving the senior center. "I'm excited. I didn't vote for him, but my children did," she said. "He is good for the young people. They had lost hope."

It's a new day — the passing of the guard, she said.

Neither she nor I believe that change of the guard will come without pain. Obama is not a savior; he's just a president.

Still, "I woke up this morning and I said a prayer for him," Trujillo said. "He is going to need it."

It took more than hope for Obama to win over a self-described "card-holding Republican" in Anthony Hayden, who fully supported McCain's military stances. Hayden, a barber at Exquisite, switched sides because of McCain's plans to implement a spending freeze in the federal government. "That would hurt a lot of programs that help people," he said. "That swayed me away from McCain."

What swayed Virgie Demeritte, a beautician with Exquisite, was a belief that Obama "has clean hands and a pure heart."

She said she has prayed and believes he will be able to bring about unexpected change, which is desperately needed, especially for young people.

"I've been a Sunday School teacher for 19 years, and I always told the children they have to have a vision," she said. "We have to plant the seed, and we have to pray for one another."

Obama's presidency plants that seed, said S.T. Roach, legendary Lexington basketball coach for Dunbar High School during segregation. "It gives us some momentum to go forward and work hard. It helps our children work hard in school."

Because of the number of votes Obama won Tuesday, there will be no recounts, Roach said, no U.S. Supreme Court involvement.

"It lets the youngsters know they can do anything."