Home crowd cheers as Obama votes

In Senator Barack Obama’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago, as the Democratic candidate cast his vote at a local school, voters crowded around - cameras flashing - to demonstrate pride in their favourite son.



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CHICAGO, USA - Sen. Barack Obama, the first black candidate from a major party in US presidential history, voted here at the Beulah Shoe Smith Elementary School in Chicago on Tuesday morning, shortly after polls across the city opened.


Dressed in a black suit with a steel grey tie, Obama arrived at the polling station in Hyde Park, his South Side neighborhood, with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.


Looking relaxed and smiling at the crowd of journalists and admiring residents, Obama and his wife filled out the lengthy ballot paper while their daughters looked on. With several offices as well as amendments up for consideration, it took some time, time an impatient Sasha used to hug her father’s leg.


Cameras flashed, cell phones went up in the air and onlookers breathed deeply, acutely aware that they were witnessing a historic moment for the US.


As the nation – and the entire world – holds its breath, Obama displayed the good-humored composure that has come to characterize his style throughout the long, tough 2008 presidential campaign.


Ballots filled, the Obamas headed to a voting machine and, just as the Democratic presidential candidate prepared to place the ballot in the machine slot, he quipped: “Alright, I hope this works. I will be very embarrassed if it didn’t.”


It did. And so, apparently, did a number of voting machines across the city, although there were scattered reports of machines temporarily breaking down, leading to long lines at some polling stations.


‘Historic day - especially for a black man’


Hours after the Democratic presidential candidate cast his ballot, Terry Sampson, a 41-year-old home inspector and high school basketball referee, stood in line at the Beulah Elementary School to cast his vote.


“This is a very historic day - especially for a black man in America,” said the lanky father of an 11-year-old girl. “We were told, when we were growing up, that we could be anything. Now, Barack Obama has showed us that it was true, what they told us.”


Sampson, whose daughter studies at Beulah Elementary, has played basketball with Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, who is the head coach of the Oregon State University basketball team. He said he never talked politics with Robinson, but he knew that, “like all black men,” he was proud of his brother-in-law.


Outside the polling station in this affluent area, Tom Chesrown, a 58-year-old white sales manager and his partner, Jim Steen, 64, an Episcopalian pastor, said they voted for Obama because they felt confident that Obama would move closer toward closing the chapter on the Iraq War.


“The war in Iraq was immoral, it was the worst thing America could have done,” said Steen. “I’m sick of (President) George Bush’s hubris and anyone wanting to end that war gets my vote.”


While Chesrown and Steen said gay rights was “one of the most important issues” for them, they both expressed relief that the issue stayed on the back burner during this presidential race.


Obama opposes gay marriage, but he also opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage. “I think gay rights is happening anyway,” said Chesrown. “I’m happy it didn’t blow up this time because it’s a very polarizing issue.”


‘Hyde Park may lose him for a better cause’


The Kenwood area of Hyde Park, where Obama lives, is considerably more affluent than other parts of the neighborhood.


At the Martin Luther King Community Service Center in Hyde Park, Elizabeth Glispen, 79, showed up to vote with her granddaughter, Tonia Gilliard, 41.


“I voted for Obama and not only because he’s a black man,” Gilliard said. “He strikes me as someone who understands my problem. The economy is in a mess and everyone’s hurtin’ – but the poor are hurtin’ more than the rich. Obama understands this.”


“Yes, he does,” Gilliard's grandmother added. “He’s close to us. I feel close to him. He may go to the White House. I sure hope he goes to that White House – it’s time a black man did."


The septuagenarian continued:  “But he’ll stay with us. Hyde Park may lose him for a better cause, but in the end, he’ll come back home to us.”


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