Election Analysis In Class, Embraces And Tears Outside It

By Avis Thomas-Lester and Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 6, 2008

"What happened yesterday?" U.S. history teacher Janisann Hay asked her class.

"Obama won!" several seventh-graders yelled.

"What does that mean?" Hay asked.

"That we're going to have higher taxes!" one girl opined.

"The troops are going to come home from Iraq!" a boy offered.

"The nation is going to be stronger!" declared another.

Scenes similar to the one at White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring yesterday morning played out on campuses across the region as students analyzed Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election. They marveled at the significance of the first person of color moving into the White House and weighed what the Illinois Democrat will do about issues such as health care. They also speculated about what the defeated Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), would have done about the Iraq war and what President Bush might do to improve his image before he leaves office.

At Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County, the election was all the buzz before the first bell. At Howard University in the District, one of the nation's most prestigious historically black universities, every conversation seemed to start and end with Obama as students shared tears, laughter, hugs and disbelief that the country had elected a black president.

"Today, I said the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time in three years," said Grant Durando, 17, an Obama supporter and a student in Justin Brown's Advanced Placement government class at Potomac Falls High. "I said it because I'm proud -- that our country can go from killing millions of people on slave ships to one that puts a black man in office. I think I meant it for the first time, too."

Talk zipped around the classroom, which skewed about 80 percent toward Obama. But McCain supporters kept up a lively defense.

"A lot of it was the experience factor," said Ashley Dill, 17, a self-described liberal Republican, explaining her support for McCain. "I believe Obama is an idealist. He's got some great ideas. They all sound really pretty coming from his mouth, but there's no proof that he can get it through."

Rosa Rad, 16, a sophomore, said she passed out Obama pamphlets at 100 doors in Sterling on Monday. "I'm so excited, I was crying last night," she said. "I feel proud to be an American."

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