Last summer, KPCC Special Correspondent Kitty Felde met a retired state worker from Los Angeles who wanted to see history. Her name is Lydia Thomas and even though she didn't have a ticket to the Democratic National Convention, she went to Denver anyway to hear Barack Obama speak. Kitty Felde says Lydia Thomas is getting ready for another trip this time to Washington, D.C.
Kitty Felde: Lydia Thomas and her two sisters-in-law decided to attend the inauguration long before Barack Obama had clinched his party's nomination.
Lydia Thomas: We've all been to Washington before, so we said at the very least, we'll be there for some inauguration and we'll just tour the museums.
Felde: The museums will have to wait. Lydia Thomas is going to the inauguration. She says she's getting the president of her dreams.
Thomas: It's just so historical, so unbelievable. And it's just such a cliché now to say I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime. But that's the truth. It's just unbelievable.
I mean, there'll be times when maybe I'll look at my Obama paraphernalia or whatever and I just – the thought just goes through my mind that we actually have a black president, an African-American man who is so brilliant, so bright, so unusual. And I think this is the right time and the right place.
Felde: Tell me what difference you think it's going to make. Besides policy coming down from Washington, but specifically, having an African-American president, what difference does that make?
Thomas: Just the fact of possibility. And you see somebody who has come from his background, being raised primarily by a single mother or his grandparents, not being wealthy, being able to have a dream.
And his ticket was education. And that's something that was always preached to me growing up, and, of course, to my son and to my grandsons. So this is like a living proof that that really works.
And for people that like to play the race card or cry "poor me" or whatever, you can't use that victim mentality. Because, of course, for some folks, I mean there are some legitimate things that are happening and maybe they can't get beyond whatever they're doing.
But for other people – maybe people don't want to try hard enough, don't want to think it's possible, don't want to take that extra step. It's always, "Poor us, we can't do this, we can't do that." Because he's a shining example.
Yeah, you can. You can do things. So I think it's just inspiring and it gives our youth hope. And it just cracks me up, my little grandkids, it's like, "Well, sure I can be president, you know, why not?" They're so nonchalant about it now, so that just tickles me.
Felde: Lydia Thomas says her grandsons – ages 11 and 13 – spent election night in her living room, following the returns on TV with an electoral map in their laps.
Thomas: They're just so excited about Obama. And the younger one actually at his school got into some kind of negative interchange with another student there who was saying, "No, we don't want a black president 'cause if we do, it's going to be a big welfare state. Things are going to be really bad and we won't be able to get ahead because he's a black president and what do black people know?" And my little grandson was so hurt and so angry that he was crying. And he doesn't cry.
So when Obama won, the kids just were begging to wear the Obama shirts. They had spent the night at my house, so they wore their Obama shirts and then the next day the little one was saying, "Granny, everybody was giving me high fives all day long." And I said what about the little boy that you had the exchange with. He said, "It's no problem now. He's my friend."
Felde: Lydia Thomas will be surrounded by as many as 5 million new friends in Washington, D.C. on January 20th to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama.