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'I hope people change their racial attitudes because of his election'

President-elect Barack Obama ... at 47, one of America
President-elect Barack Obama ... at 47, one of America's youngest presidents.
— image credit: Office of Sen. Barack Obama

DT McCarty grew up in a segregated Alabama in the 1950s, attended an all-black university, and encountered subtle and not-so-subtle racism during her life.

She never thought the America she knows — an America she said is still grappling with attitudes about race — would elect a black president in her lifetime.

McCarty, a retired nursing administrator, hopes the election of Barack Obama means Americans are becoming colorblind.

"I hope people change their racial attitudes because of his election," she said. Although she is African-American, McCarty didn't vote for Obama because of his racial background.

"He's cool, calm and collected. I like his attention to detail and his presentation. He's a great orator. And I was so impressed with the campaign that he ran. It was genius — he just positioned himself and kept on going."

Democrat Obama, 47, the junior senator from Illinois, handily won the presidency Tuesday, receiving 64,514,197 popular votes and 349 electoral votes to Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain's 56,783,414 popular votes and 163 electoral votes. Obama won in 29 states and the District of Columbia, including five so-called battleground states and eight states that voted Republican in 2004.

"The morning after he won, we dug out our American flag and put it in front of our house. For the first time in a long time, I think we are proud to be Americans and wave the flag,” said Mariya Porten, 23.

"He restored a sense of patriotism and makes me want to get involved and work for my country." She recently earned a political science degree at Colorado College and plans to study international relations in graduate school. She said Obama connected with her age group, and said the president-elect believes the younger generation can play a direct part in implementing change.

Porten believes Obama will inspire trust within the global community. In her foreign travels, she noticed, “People looked at our nation as a 'self-righteous bully.' ”

Porten volunteered for the Democratic Party in Friday Harbor and in Fairbanks, Alaska. She encouraged many of her young friends to vote and purchased 20 Obama buttons for friends.

“I feel lucky to be in the prime of my life and have this happen,” said Natalia Lawrence, 25, mother of a six-month-old daughter. “I'm proud to be an American today because I feel safe on who is negotiating for my country.”

On election night, Carolyn Hudson completed the book "The Age of Lincoln," by Orville Burton, which chronicles the time period from 1840 to 1900. The book awakened her to the sacrifices people made to keep our country united and to ensure for people of all color the right to vote.

“Although I am more of a conservative and voted for McCain, I greatly appreciate the significance of Obama as president-elect and hope that he'll hold true to the principles to which our country was founded,” Hudson said.

Former Friday Harbor mayor Gary Boothman said Obama has broken a barrier for all people and genders. "I thought it was more likely a woman would be elected before a black man. The nice thing about it is, once that barrier's broken, other possibilities become available and that's a really good thing."

Boothman believes Obama's election indicates American is becoming colorblind — "not just that he won, but that he won so handily," he said. "He was an excellent candidate. He's well-educated, stable and intelligent. That's why he was elected."

The world media has trumpeted Obama as a representation of the American melting pot — and perhaps a sign that America will take a new tack in its relations with other countries.

Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas. But the president-elect is also the new face of another ethnic group in America: His mother's great-grandparents came from Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland about 150 years ago. On Nov. 5, the BBC reported that Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has invited Obama to his ancestral hometown.

Kevin Ranker was at an election-night event in Bellingham Tuesday, awaiting results of his bid for state Senate, when Obama's election was announced.

"There were hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets of Bellingham, yelling and screaming and hugging and crying," he said.

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike called it "a happy riot."

"It was a really emotional and incredibly overwhelming experience," Ranker said.

McCain supporter John Towson is hopeful that Obama will put a hold on tax increases and overall spending. As a financial adviser, Towson is concerned about Obama's plan to raise the capital gains tax.

“The capital gains tax will really put us in financial jeopardy," he said. "We can't have more taxes while we are in a downslide recession. There has to be fair and balanced tax across the board.”

— Reporting by Ann Templeton Monin and Richard Walker

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