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Black Merced residents call Obama's election fulfillment of a dream

Lillian Roberts felt a feeling that was in the hearts of many black Americans Monday night: She never thought she would live to see it happen.

Roberts, an 81-year-old Atwater resident, could barely contain her excitement after hearing the news that Barack Obama had been elected President of the United States. She called her son, Al Roberts, special teams coordinator with the St. Louis Rams, to share the news.

And while Roberts and other black Merced County residents said they are excited to see the first black president, they also agreed that it is a proud moment for the entire nation.

"You have this feeling as an African American of, 'Oh, it will never happen,'" Roberts said. "It took the young people to do it. My age group, they probably still have their blinders on. But it's just marvelous."

Charles Ogletree, a black Harvard Law School professor and native Mercedian, taught Obama as a student at Harvard in 1988. Ogletree said his former pupil is "fully equipped to do the job to make all of America better."

He described Obama as "simply brilliant with all sorts of skills and talents."

"This is not only a victory for America, but it is also a global victory. People from Africa to Asia to Europe to South America are cheering this decision."

Jo Berry, a 70-year-old Atwater resident, volunteered with the campaign, making phone calls and driving voters to polls.

Besides the birth of her daughter, Berry said Monday was the "most exciting day" of her life. "This means that finally we can come together as a nation. I don't see us as African American. I see us as one, coming together for the betterment of our country," she said.

Michelle Allison, president of the Merced branch of the NAACP, said Obama's election is a fulfillment of the dream of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "It makes anything possible for our children. Dream it, believe it and achieve it," Allison said. "This is probably one of the most exciting moments I have witnessed in American history."

Gary Nichols, a 53-year-old black Los Banos resident, said the moment was historic because it shows the “American people have finally realized that it’s not the color of a person’s skin, but the person himself” who counts.

His son, Marcellus Nichols, 28, is serving in the Army in Iraq. "Just because (Obama) is black or biracial is not really the issue," Nichols said. "The issue is that we have the man in there who is going to help this country and put it back on the path to prosperity."

John Johnson, a 57-year-old Atwater resident, said Obama’s election will create a “bridge” for all people, regardless of race, to cross: “I think it shows that America has grown up.”Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or