Asa Cain watched election night returns Nov. 4 with his parents at their south Lombard Avenue home in Oak Park. The Oak Park and River Forest High School sophomore was certain Barack Obama would win the presidency. He also watched his parents, both born in the 1950s, as returns came in. His mother shed a few tears as Obama was declared president of the United States over John McCain. His father, a man of faith, Cain noted, didn’t cry but also forecast an Obama victory.
“I knew it was inevitable he would win,” said Cain, president of OPRF’s BOSS (Black Organization for Student Success). “I was very happy and overjoyed. It’s a big milestone and turning point for the black community all over America. It was just a great moment.”
Cain recalled other BOSS members expressing assurance in Obama’s win. The Illinois senator won in a landslide with more than 350 electoral votes and 53 percent of the popular vote. On election night, Cain’s family called his older brother who’s attending college out of state. They called as the 18-year-old was standing in line waiting to vote. Cain said his brother was excited to cast his first ever vote for president for Obama. His brother told the family he saw all kinds of people voting, including many young black males. The reality of having a black man as president means a lot to Cain.
“When people say, ‘the sky’s the limit,’ we can say that for black people that’s really true. If I want to run for president, I feel like I can do it, and that wasn’t always the case,” he said. “For years, all you saw were presidents who were white men, but not anymore.”
Cain, though, said Obama’s win was as much for his parents’ generation as his.
“They saw and went through Jim Crow. I remember my mom telling me about as a little girl having to go in the back of some establishments. They actually experienced what people like Martin Luther King and W.E.B. Dubois fought for. It meant so much more for them than me,” Cain said.
The day after the election, OPRF was abuzz and many black students were aglow with excitement, Cain recalled. Before the election, his classmates and BOSS members talked about the Electoral College and Obama’s prospects. Cain acknowledged most OPRF students were pro-Obama, mentioning a mock election the school had Oct. 24, where the Illinois senator trounced McCain with 585 votes to 67.
While he wasn’t old enough to vote this year, Cain said he’ll vote for Obama’s reelection in 2012. He added Obama’s victory will increase his interest in black history. The sophomore doesn’t consider himself a student of history, but said he knew a good deal about what happened in the past.
“I’ve always appreciated where I came from, but it makes me want to expound more on what I’ve learned and what I know,” said Cain, who would like to see the new president reach out to American’s black youth at some point during his administration. “Barack should make a statement to young black people about what they can become in life. He could say something like that. That could make an impact as the first black president.”