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Hope, and some skepticism, in NYC about Obama

(Credit: Politirazzi)

Sherri Wright of Harlem celebrates Obama’s victory. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)

By Benjamin Sarlin

Special to amNewYork

As election night excitement gave way to thoughts of how Barack Obama would govern as president, New Yorkers expressed their hopes and fears for the next administration, often divided along lines of age and race.

In his victory speech, Obama proclaimed that “change has come to America” and many young New Yorkers said they were hopeful the country would reach new heights under his leadership — even if it might take a while to get there.

“I feel that from now on, something big will happen. It’s something we all have to share and it won’t be overnight,” Shaidyn Cedeno, 22, an electronic design student at City College said. She added that she was “willing to wait” while the presidents’ policies were implemented.

Hannah Gold, 21, a junior studying political science at Hunter College, said she did not expect instant results and was glad that Obama used his victory speech to warn Americans that change would take “more than one year and more than one term.”“I’m going to be really patient with him, change takes a lot of time,” Gold said. For Gold, change meant improving America’s image around the world, where President Bush’s policies have alienated many former allies. “I want to earn the respect of other countries again,” she said.

Harlem resident Lion Thornton, 26, said he was hopeful Obama could follow through on his campaign promises.

“I think he can. I don’t know if he will, but I think he can,” Thornton said, “It’s politics, so you never know.”

Among their grandparents’ (and great-grandparents’) generation, however, many expressed fear of the coming Obama presidency.

Ray Salzillo, 98, said she was “not in favor” of Obama, largely due to suspicions about the president-elect’s race.

“He will help only his own people,” Salzillo said as she watched news of the election from Steinway Senior Center in Astoria yesterday, “I hope the people of his race will mind their business and not bother the whites.”

Several elderly white residents in her neighborhood expressed pessimism that Obama’s policies would match his rhetoric.

“I have no hope,” said Jon Jacobi, 82, a Croatian immigrant, “The economy is very bad and he’s just going to become a scapegoat for big business.”

“I saw the Depression and two World Wars and I think he does not know what he’s talking about,” said one 91-year old woman, “I just don’t like this world today.”

For Carol Mitchell, 68, an African-American woman, however, expectations for Obama were high on hopes that the country was moving past racial and religious divisions.

“I feel wonderful,” Mitchell said, “I’ve been waiting for things to change a long time. We have to live together, all races and religions, and we’re going to join together to make a better America. We’re in the right frame of mind.”

Tags: new york city

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