06/04/08 — Some residents see history in Obama nod; others ready for issues

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Some residents see history in Obama nod; others ready for issues

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on June 4, 2008 1:45 PM

Randall Johnson never told his son, Cameron, he could grow up to be anything he wanted to be.

"I don't believe we ever had that conversation," the 64-year-old said. "I know my father never said that to me."

It never occurred to him that world had changed since he was a boy -- a time when blacks and whites did not even go to school together.

But when he watched Sen. Barack Obama clinch the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, he thought about what he might tell his 6-year-old grandson, Rajan.

"When (Cameron) was growing up, did I think he could be president one day? Well, no," Johnson said. "Now, I probably would have said, 'Yes,' but I would have been lying. But I will be sure to tell my grandson, 'You see. We did it.'"

Tuesday was a historic night as Obama became the first black major-party nominee for president of United States.

Jamie Martin said she "got chills" when the senator secured the delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

"I always thought something would happen and Hillary would win ... so watching him speak last night was special," she said. "I just can't believe it. That sounds kind of bad but it's true. A black president? That's not possible. Well, until now."

But while some local residents, like Johnson, were looking back on decades of "progress," others were more concerned about the issues -- not race.

Like Nelson Mitchell, who talked over breakfast at Wilber's about his concerns with an Obama presidency, ones he says have nothing to do with black versus white.

"I would have voted for Colin Powell. Race has nothing to do with it," he said. "(Obama) doesn't have a lot of respect for the military. He wouldn't salute the flag. Later, he said he would, but he didn't always do so. ... I don't trust him. I hope McCain beats him."

And then there was Clarence Owens, who, from across the table, said he is looking for a president who would give the American people a tax cut.

"When they take less out of my pocket, I don't think my employer has slipped me a raise," he said. "The liberal party has taken over."

James Thornton agreed.

He believes the economy is an important issue and wants a leader with a plan to help reduce increasing gasoline costs.

"I need to go to BB&T to get a loan so I can cut my grass," he said.

Jack Anderson is worried about national security and believes the Democratic Party is wrong when it comes to withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"I don't think we ought to snatch our troops out of Iraq. We'll be fighting Iran next, because Iran will take over Iraq (if we leave)," he said. "We ought not to leave before we get the job done."

Johnson believes, though, that most of the problems facing the nation will "work themselves out," no matter who becomes the next president.

"It's going to come down to Iraq," the retired soldier said.

But whatever the outcome of November's election, one battle, he said, has already been won.

"My wife is deceased. You know, she was one of those who wept the day Dr. King died," he said. "I wish she could have seen this."