Youngsters Rocked The Vote

It has been a long campaign to the White House. In the two years that preceded Tuesday's voting, young people provided a boost of enthusiasm and excitement to Barack Obama's campaign. Organizations like Rock the Vote and student groups were important on campus for Democrats and Republicans.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's pick up on something Cokie just said there. She said, "This a new country." And let's see what that looks like in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, which Barack Obama won. Young voters of all races at Drexel University celebrated the news of his victory. And it was especially sweet for students of color, as NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

(Soundbite of Drexel University students yelling and screaming)

ALLISON KEYES: They cried, they jumped up and down, they called their parents and grandparents. And many, like 20-year-old Janille Johnson(ph), started to cry.

Ms. JANILLE JOHNSON (Student, Drexel University): I know the history of African-Americans in this country, and I'm sure my ancestors are jumping right now in their grave because this is a great moment in history.

KEYES: Twenty-year-old Pennsylvanian Daniel Washington(ph) says he's nearly speechless because he's a black man in a country where he believes his race has been downtrodden, incarcerated, and emasculated.

Mr. DANIEL WASHINGTON (Student, Drexel University): It means everything to me. It means that I have a chance to be all that I can be because it's everything. I don't know. It just means so much to me. I just can't explain. I really can't.

KEYES: It meant a lot to 19-year-old Anna Matthew(ph), too. She was among the last to leave the university's nonpartisan election watching party and says she was elated to see a Democrat win after eight years of President Bush.

Ms. ANNA MATTHEW (Student, Drexel University): This is my first time voting, and I'm so glad that my first time could be for someone - it was a historic moment in history. It's kind of like living in the '60s, but like better because, you know, I'm here and I'm experiencing the whole thing.

KEYES: The celebration on the campus at Drexel University in the midst of the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia involved students of all colors. Both candidates worked hard at engaging younger voters via youth coordinators and the Internet, among other things. Organizations like Rock the Vote and student groups from both parties were active on campuses across the country, including this one. Some students volunteered for either campaign. Others knocked on doors to get out the vote. Yesterday at Drexel, students lined up in droves at the polling place on campus. And many, like 18-year-old Dominic Arnan(ph), said they were just plain psyched.

Mr. DOMINIC ARNAN (Student, Drexel University): It's just the first time I can vote, so I'm not going to just throw away the opportunity.

KEYES: Arnan says he voted for Republican John McCain because he believes Obama's tax plan will hurt his father's small business. But the level of enthusiasm among this group of voters was the same no matter which party they supported. It was like a perfect storm. Charismatic candidates talking about issues that matter to young people like the war and the economy, and what many described as unprecedented outreach via text messaging and popular social sites like Facebook. But 21-year-old Rashanda Johnson(ph) says this is especially important to young people like herself and her younger brothers.

Ms. RASHANDA JOHNSON (Student, Drexel University): Just because this is something that could really show (unintelligible) to really let them know they really can do anything, like, if they really put their minds to it.

KEYES: Johnson and other students here say they are excited to see what changes an Obama presidency will bring. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Philadelphia.

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