Modest hopes, days extraordinary
Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 03:50 pm CT by msnbc.com
Filed under Field correspondents
PHILADELPHIA – The old man all but skipped through the glass front doors, out into the light rain, a smile on his face. When I asked him his story we stepped back under the overhang by the front door of the new G.W. Carver High School for Science and Engineering in North Philadelphia, where Otis Robertson had just voted.
"I'll be 80 Christmas Eve," he said. "Never missed voting for president since I was 18. But this..." his voice trailed off and came up with a gentle laugh. Then he added, "I figured one day it might happen, yes, in my lifetime."
Robertson, who is African-American, has lived for half a century in the black neighborhood blocks from the new high school, a retired truck driver with a family now spread far and wide.
"The thing is," he said, explaining Sen. Barack Obama's journey into history, "the world was already changing. All the people in the world were changing. Now if he lives long enough he'll be able to make a difference in some things.… But he doesn't have to do anything dramatic, really. He just has to be a good president."
I asked him what he meant by his comment about Obama living long enough, and he looked down, his smile gone then. "Well … I worry. For his safety."
I thought of the years of America's history Otis Robertson had shared, years that had shaped his fears, as well as his hopes.
He returned to his theme, of modest hopes attached to these days of extraordinary, almost giddy expectation. "I just want him to be a solid president, if he wins. Knowing that he can't change the world in a week or a year."
I asked him if this is the most excited he's ever been, casting a vote for the presidential candidate of his choice.
"Excited?" He let out a guffaw. "Are you kiddin' me? I tried to vote twice!"
-- Mike Taibbi, NBC News correspondent