Barack Obama is not the only one who thinks it is time for change.

At Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center on Sunday afternoon, the Yale chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted an oratory contest for local high school students titled “Speak Out: Is America Ready for a Black President?” And for the seven students to take the podium, the resounding answer was: “Yes.”

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Themes that were repeated often throughout the speeches included the belief that, ideally, race should no longer be an issue for our country and that Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is the key to quelling racial tensions.

John Armenio, a 14-year-old from Hill Regional Career High School who won the competition and its $500 first prize, said that if Obama were not been black, there would be no question about who should be president, since his message of change has won over many Americans from the get-go.

“We are ready,” he stated in his speech. “I do not remember having a discussion in school when Bush was elected, asking if we were ready for another Caucasian president. We are ready for change.”

The students emphasized that Obama should be the next president because of his ideas and his plans for putting this country on the right track. The fact that he is African-American is immaterial, they said.

“Obama is the only person to help us change,” said Ebony Bolden, who attends High School in the Community. “He will make it better for the low, middle and high classes.”

Armenio echoed a similar thought. “We need to base our vote on who will be best for the country,” he said. “Obama is the right man for the job.”

Travis Long ’10, secretary of the Yale NAACP, said the event, which will is in the works to be continued as an annual tradition, was a great way to hear what some of the New Haven youth think about the looming election.

“They don’t have the right to vote,” he said, “but we still want to hear what the future generation of leaders has to say.”

Krystal Morales of Common Ground High School, the third-place winner, implored the parents in the audience to make sure they vote Tuesday.

“Imagine your kids telling their kids they remember when the first black president was elected,” she said. “You can make history. You can make this happen … Obama will open the door for all Americans – blacks, Hispanics, Asians and everyone else. Regardless of color, people can achieve anything they set their minds to.”

Many of the students likened Obama to a 21st century Martin Luther King Jr. Darshea McCoy, a student at Metropolitan Business Academy who placed second in the competition, said Obama will be able to continue in King’s footsteps if elected president.

“He was a world figure, a symbolic leader of change for American blacks,” she said, referring to King. “America wasn’t ready, and he was assassinated. But now the time for change has finally come.”