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After Obama Win, Washington Reflects


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. This morning, as I thought about what it means for this country to have elected its first African-American president, I wanted to spend some time at the Lincoln Memorial. And I wasn't alone in seeking out that simple, elegant marble temple. I found Pat Dolby (ph) of Arlington Virginia, standing at the foot of Lincoln's statue, looking intently at the president's face.

Ms. PAT DOLBY: I was wondering if he thought this day would ever come when we would elect, you know, a person of color as our president. And I don't know, probably not. But I think about my 81-year-old mother, who grew up in a segregated society, and she cast her ballot yesterday for a black man. That, to me, is truly amazing. It's just incredible. I do believe that we're the only country in the world that where something like this could happen. So, I'm very proud to be an American today.

BLOCK: Josh Rosenberg (ph) of Washington D.C. made it a special point to run up the memorial steps on his jog today. He spent a long time inside, staring at Lincoln's words from 1865 engraved in stone.

Mr. JOSH ROSENBERG: It's so appropriate to be here in front of Lincoln today and just rereading the second inaugural address and retracing some of those steps of history and standing where Martin Luther King stood. You know, it really does make you realize how far we've come from the division of the time of Lincoln's second inaugural address, and those words almost seems so prophetic for a morning like this.

BLOCK: What words were you reading in there that made you stop and think?

Mr. ROSENBERG: Malice for none, charity for all. And, you know, Lincoln talks about not judging those, lest we be judged ourselves and, you know, really just trying to stand in the shoes of the people at the time who were so bitterly divided, you know, a nation completely divided. And you know, when you look at the map last night, and it's just a red and blue divided line. You know, I hope we can start to blur those lines again.

BLOCK: Stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech on a summer day in 1963, stand there and think about that incredible crowd on the National Mall listening to Dr. King remind them of the fierce urgency of now. Stand there and here the echoes of Dr. King's dream, that one day his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

BLOCK: Five-month-old Clyde L. Jackson IV(ph) came with his mother, Miada Jackson (ph), today to another Washington, D.C. landmark, Ben's Chili Bowl, a legendary business in Washington's black community for 50 years now. It's on U Street. That was where the 1968 riots began in Washington after Dr. King was assassinated. Miada Jackson of Oxon Hill, Maryland, originally from Sierra Leone, says she knew she had to come to Ben's Chili Bowl today.

Ms. MIADA JACKSON: Yeah, I couldn't even sleep last night. I was alone making noise, and my husband was asleep. The kids were asleep, and I couldn't even scream. So I was - I needed to just vent out today.

BLOCK: You know, we're here on U Street, and it's pretty stunning to think about 40 years ago, what was going on here, riots, and here we are.

Ms. JACKSON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And I just keep thinking about Martin Luther King and what he died for, and this is it. Basically, people died and people bled and sweat for this and really lost their lives for this. And this is humongous. It's really huge, and I'm so happy to be a U.S. citizen while all of this is happening. Because in Africa, believe me, they're partying right now. In London, my aunts did not sleep. They called in.

This is all over the world. Not because he's black, but because he means he represents everybody else. It's because he represents the normal common man who, you know, raised by a single mother, the whole nine, didn't come from pedigree. So, it's just nice to know that one of us can make it. Our children have hope.

BLOCK: You just pointed to your son in his stroller here.

Ms. JACKSON: Yes, next one. The next president, there you go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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