Howard Foster is sitting quietly in the sunny lobby of his assisted living apartment building. He cast his first vote for president in 1932, when democrat Franklin Roosevelt took on republican Herbert Hoover. The Great Depression was ravaging the nation, and voters wanted change. This year’s election sounded the echoes of that era in many ways, except this time, an African American won the White House. Foster is giddy.
“It’s great. It’s great. I don’t know what I feel. I can’t believe it,” Foster says.
At a senior center downtown Louisville, seniors are holding an indoor yard sale. Betty has piled her table with sweaters and costume jewelry. The first election in which she was eligible to vote was in 1964. At that time, she could vote, but she wasn’t allowed in the movie theater on 4th Street in a still-segregated Louisville. She says she has mixed feelings about the election.
“I’m elated, and I’m worried because it’s a mess he’s coming into a mess, and it’s going to take a whole lot to get him out of it. And we all have to work together to do this. Everybody’s glad and proud and everything, but we also got to understand he’s coming into a mess and it’s going to take something to get out of it,” says Betty.
Young voters share some of those concerns—and they have others. University of Louisville Freshman Kirsten Kirkland breezes into the student activity center, dressed for track practice. She says she’s excited about Barack Obama’s win, but she’s not sure everyone can handle it.
“At the same time I’m very nervous and worried about his family’s life. People have already tried to kill him before he won the official election,” Kirkland says.
This was also the first presidential election for Freshman Bo Eggers. He says he voted for McCain, but he’s ready to move forward.
“Kind of excited that it’s over. Just cause of all the political ads and all that. It’s over with. A lot of negative. Now we can focus on the positive and actually get things done,” says Eggers.
Older McCain supporters expressed the same desire to move forward and get cracking on fixing some of the country’s ills. Ray Thomas is working a crossword puzzle in a reclining chair in his apartment. He says the next president has his work cut out for him, from the economy to foreign wars.
“And I wish president Obama my best, with the situation he’s got to go through. I was born a republican and I voted republican. But I’m not a sore loser,” Thomas says.
Downstairs in the apartment building’s activity room, Gertrude Gay isn’t as sanguine about the election’s winner. As a World War II vet who served as a nurse in Normandy, Gay says she identified more with McCain.
“I feel the… I’m….open to what is going to happen. Of course, I was very much for McCain because he was a veteran.,” says Gay.
All of these voters share the belief tha this election was indeed historic, with the first serious possibility that a woman could be vice president or an African American the president. And they all feel anxious about what lies ahead. The nation is in dire straits—from the economy to our image overseas.