January 18, 2009

Locals at Inauguration: From Clinton to Obama

Had the presidential election been held a year ago, John Ervin likely would have cast his vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“I was straddling the fence, but definitely more toward Clinton,” said Ervin, who is attending the inauguration with his wife, Lizzette Ervin. “I could really see her uniting our nation. I felt she had charm and charisma. I thought with her experience the past eight years in the White House, and given the success of her husband as president, that she had some insight from other presidencies that (Barack) Obama didn’t have.

“Also, her being a woman brought some different insights. I thought coming from a different perspective is what we needed this time around.”

That was right around the time of the South Carolina primary last January, when Ervin said he was still straddling the fence.

It was at that point when he felt her campaign began getting negative, and some mudslinging ensued, that, for him, things swung in Obama's favor.

Mentoring the youth is what Ervin holds closest to his heart, and Obama has always shown that ability to connect with young people. Ervin is founder of Project Uplift, a mentorship program that provides guidance to black youths in the Modesto area.

“When I saw the grassroots efforts of Obama and the rallying of the young people behind the campaign, even those not old enough to vote, I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I’m talking about,’ ” he said. “This is what democracy is all about. The ‘Yes We Can’ became more real than a cliché. It was not just a campaign slogan. He believed it, and people believed he could. College students, high school students, the grassroots ... I've never seen that in an election.”

For Ervin, race was a nonissue when it came to voting, but he hopes Obama’s election will help dispel stereotypes about black men. And he still maintains a sense that “the legacy of the black race is hinging on the success of (Obama’s) term.”

Nevertheless, he said, “I never thought in my wildest dreams or imagination that I would live to see a black president.”

That he can look into the eyes of a young African-American and nod affirmatively when they ask if they could one day be president brings joy to Ervin. The same satisfaction, he said, would have come from looking into a girl’s eyes had Clinton won.

Ervin and his wife will be staying at a friend’s house in nearby Alexandria, Va. He received tickets to the inaugural from Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, whose reception he’ll attend on Monday.

He’ll also participate in Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service events, and attend the National Council of La Raza Ball.

On the morning of the election, they’ll prepare to wait.

“We’re going to stand for hours and hours to witness history in the making,” he said.

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