Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009 — the first African-American elected to the position. Many locals will make the trip to Washington, D.C., to watch the historic event. Others will watch from here in Kansas.
Barbara Ballard said that while growing up during the Civil Rights era, she always believed that during her lifetime, the United States would elect a female president and an African-American president.
“I thought that, yes, we would, providing that I lived a long time,” said Ballard, who is now 64 and a Democratic state legislator from Lawrence.
For Ballard and many other African-Americans, the election of Barack Obama, who will be inaugurated Tuesday, represents the hope that racist attitudes are diminishing and the nation is ready to fulfill the promise of equality.
“What this election said is that a vast majority of people looked beyond color and looked beyond stereotypes and voted for who they thought was the best for the United States of America, and that to me is a big testimony that maybe the Constitution works — it may take a while, but it works,” Ballard said.
Horace Edwards, 84, a former president of ARCO Pipeline Co. who then worked in the Cabinet of former Gov. Mike Hayden, said Obama’s election was a “monumental step in a positive direction.”
Edwards said that in recent years he had become concerned about the direction of society and politics but that the country’s support of Obama gave him hope.
“I’m relieved for us as a country, and I’m much more hopeful about humankind overall. I think the United States and its fortunes are critical in the advancement of people on this planet during this age,” he said.
William Richards Sr., 87, president emeritus of the Topeka branch of the NAACP, said when he received an invitation to Obama’s inauguration, “it just about brought tears to my eyes.”
Because of his age, Richards said, he won’t attend the event but will watch it on television.
But, he said, Obama’s character and intelligence have set a standard for everyone.
“I do think it sets a target for many of our adults, and particularly our children that the only way you can compete is with a good education, and get away from that street garbage that it isn’t cool to be intellectual,” he said.