When Linda, a Saybrook Dining Hall desk attendant, pulled into her Newhallville polling station early Tuesday morning, she burst into tears.
The line was 60 people deep. Linda knew this protracted queue meant she would have to wait over an hour to cast her ballot. But her tears were tears of joy.
In 2004, only 20 people stood in line when Linda came to vote. This year, it seemed that more members of her community than ever before were inspired to make their voices heard in Tuesday’s election.
“It was so overwhelming,” said Linda, who wore three Barack Obama pins on her apron and declined to give her last name. “Some of those people hadn’t voted in 10 years.”
Indeed, the excitement was palpable Wednesday morning in Yale’s dining halls, whose many African-American workers represent a demographic that helped propel Obama to the White House the day before.
And though dining hall employees interviewed said they had voted for Obama because of his youth and his inspiring rhetoric, among other things, they acknowledged that Obama’s victory was especially breathtaking for America’s black communities.
As a child, Trumbull College Dining Hall desk attendant Robbie Hobson, 75, said she knew with certainty that a black person could never be the president of the United States. She maintained that conviction throughout her adult life and forbade herself from imagining an African-American in the White House. That is, until Obama came on the scene. Hobson said she was energized by Obama’s platform of sweeping change, by his “new ideas.”
And when the television news stations announced Obama’s victory on Tuesday night, Hobson said she was elated.
“I knew he was going to win,” Hobson said, grinning. “I just felt it.”
Berkeley College Dining Hall Manager Paul Tinker said that in his dining hall, “it was pretty universal that people were happy with the outcome.” Tinker said he believed Obama was so popular among Yale dining hall employees because the staff is largely composed of “a kind of urban workforce” that identifies with Obama’s working-class upbringing.
Tinker said many members of Berkeley’s staff experienced long lines at their local polling stations, but only one employee was forced to arrive late to work because she was waiting to cast her ballot. According to the Registrar of Voters Office, 67 percent of the New Haven electorate voted in Tuesday’s election, with 86.6 percent of those votes going to Obama.
Berkeley Dining Hall desk attendant Annette Tracey said she was 11 years old and living in Jamaica when she first heard on the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Looking back on that moment and contemplating the present, she said she cannot believe how much has changed.
“This is a dream come true,” Tracey said. “I’m honored to be a part of this.”