Ever since President-elect Barack Obama began to capture the nation’s attention, he has been cited as a role model for young black males.
Andre Young, an eighth-grader from Atlanta, Georgia, certainly views him that way. Since Nov. 4, the 13-year-old has been inspired by Obama to think before he acts and increase his focus on his schoolwork. “I pay more attention to everything and my grades have improved since then,” he says.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Andre often found himself embroiled in political debate both at home with his politically active relatives and with classmates, some of whom have also traveled to Washington to attend inaugural festivities. On his own and as part of his school’s curriculum, he watched news analyses on CNN and discussed a variety of campaign issues, from universal health care to increasing taxes for the rich. Sometimes the discussions became partisan. Students in his mixed-race school were divided, with the black kids rooting for Obama and most of the white kids for Republican Sen. John McCain.
“We talked about it all the time, and sometimes it got aggressive, which was hard. We talked about healthcare, watched CNN and how he plans to raise taxes for rich people and lower them for others,” says Andre. “Obama’s presidency lets us know we can grow up to be president one day just like he did. It means a lot and shows that we’ve come a long way from not being able to sit at the front of the bus to becoming president. I think Obama is a role model for a lot of young black men as well as people who aren’t black.”
Like millions of other out-of-towners, Andre and his families will be lined up to watch history being made. If given an opportunity to speak with the new president, he says, “I’d tell him congratulations and thank you for being a role model for all of us.”