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Obama influences Harlem youth

KENYA CONLEY | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

The emotions felt when President Barack Obama was elected and inaugurated were indescribable and surreal. In an instant, the world felt as though they would finally be able to unite as one. After witnessing Rev. Jesse Jackson cry--a man who marched down the streets with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fighting for rights and equalities for Black people--people said that they now knew that a change had finally come.

Now, as Obama faces the critical issues former President George Bush left him to deal with, Harlem youth want Obama to know that they "got your back." Having Obama as the first Black president encourages the Harlem youth to strive for the highest in everything they do because they are the future.

Shaniqua Bellamy,a 17-year-old high school student, said, "He [Obama] has opened doors for African-Americans that ancestors were trying to open, and he [Obama] has also proven that minorities can be educated and handle positions of power over the entire nation."

Aaron Conley, a 14-year-old high school student, said, "He influences me to strive for excellence and has shown that the doors of opportunity have been opened for me. But all I have to do is walk through it. And he [Obama] is living proof that a 'community organizer' can take care of the entire country by setting the needs of the people first. Take that, Sarah Palin." Samuel Lucas, 15, said, "I feel good. I don't think I will go into politics, but it makes me feel like if I wanted to, I could." His friend, 15-year-old Odell Lee, Jr., nodded. "It's opened up my horizons, given me some new ideas," said Lee.

Dominic Harley, a 16-year-old high school student, said, Barack Obama's victory made her want to be the first female Black U.S. president. "He inspired me that we can do anything," said Harley. "He is the first Black president, and I will be the first female Black president."

Khadri Muhammad is a 15-year-old high school student, and he said, "President Obama..." then stopped and laughed and continued: "I like the sound to that." Continuing his sentence, he said, "He [Obama] lets me know to strive for nothing less than the best as an African-American male."

President Obama has proved to Harlem youth and the world that "yes we can" make a difference in our world as well as in our society.