Published: Jan 17, 2009 12:30 AM
Modified: Jan 17, 2009 02:10 AM
Lori Jones Tyson laughs as she shows off her brand new, black and glossy Barack Obama pin.
In 10 months volunteering with the grassroots organization Durham for Obama, she wore hats as precinct captain, data entry clerk and recruiter.
"We were doing everything," said Tyson, 46. "I was like, 'We can do this. We just have to get to work.'"
Many will share the Durham native's enthusiasm Tuesday when Barack Obama makes history as the 44th president of the United States.
It was Obama's improbable win over Sen. Hilary Clinton in the Iowa Democratic Caucus in January 2008 that influenced Tyson to join his campaign.
Tyson liked that Obama was reaching out to the middle class. A part-time wedding planner, she said her family has struggled to live primarily off her husband Frederick's income.
"I was hell-bent on saving money," said Tyson. "To make everything work, I would lighten the load by being frugal and being thrifty around the house."
At the same time she would encourage her daughter Lauren to do well in her high school classes so she could apply for college scholarships.
"If you're in the middle, then you're pretty much on your own," said Tyson. "It's not like you're struggling enough to where anyone would want to help."
Ultimately, her daughter, now 25, received a full scholarship to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Like Tyson, Obama supporter Inga Johnson needed time to warm to the candidate's message.
"In the very beginning, I felt Obama was just another name in the candidacy pool," said Johnson, co-founder of Global Enterprises, a Durham nonprofit focused on educational growth and development.
"But as time progressed, I started to see how he hurdled obstacles during the rough stages of the election. That got my attention," she said. "America was about to witness change."
Johnson, 34, said Obama's first priority should be the nation's economic crisis and helping middle-income families.
"He gave a lot of attention to the middle class," she said. "In the midst of everything, there needs to be a lot of attention given back to us."
An event Johnson's organization is hosting Tuesday will raise scholarship money for Durham high school students who have low grades but still want to attend college.
"We can't reach the same amount of people that [Obama] can, but at least we can reach the ones in our communities," she said.
During his campaign, Obama promised to push middle class tax breaks, create jobs and make college affordable for every household.
Andre McDowell, 31, an assistant general manager at Jason's Deli in New Hope Commons, hopes Obama will start a work program that promotes green energy and lessens the United States' dependence on fossil fuels. McDowell said his restaurant uses paper products that are 85 to 90 percent recycled.
"I think he'll have a plan," McDowell said. "Obama has the ability to galvanize people in order to turn this thing around."
Johnson said the presidential inauguration will remind people how becoming politically engaged influenced the election.
"There was much participation in both voting and campaigning," she said. "People who have never voted before this election turned out big."
But Tyson said she's trying to stay realistic about what comes next.
"We'll just have to wait and see."
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