Obama as a Role Model: Students, Educators Share Excitement

Davis said Obama's example, should prove especially powerful to inner-city teens.

"When you do your Pledge of Allegiance to the United States, the president is synonymous to that flag. It's a constant reminder -- you have Barack Obama," he said. "When you walk the streets and there are kids on the corner, soliciting to sell drugs, you know that in your arsenal, you have this thought, 'I can be a Barack Obama.' You have that now to smash all those other temptations."

College-Educated Black Role Models

Obama is "living evidence of the value of education for the black students," said Kristin Klopfenstein, an associate professor at Texas Christian University who studies education and economics.

Despite the growth of a black middle class, Klopfenstein said that the typical black child is still rarely exposed to black, college-educated adults.

"The only college-educated folks that black students often see are their teachers," she said.

And in children's eyes, Klopfenstein said, their teachers' achievements may pale in comparison to the star power of successful blacks such as movie stars and rappers often portrayed in the media.

But "Obama doesn't fit into those two types of categories of what people see every day," she said.

His election, she said, will "show kids that you can be charismatic and you can be successful and you can be intellectual and you can be black at the same time."

The Multiracial

There is another demographic that stands to benefit directly from Obama's example -- multiracial youth.

Obama defies the conventional wisdom that people of mixed races can't find acceptance among different communities, said Jenifer Bratter, a Rice University assistant professor who studies multiracial identities.

"What Barack Obama has exemplified in his campaign and his speeches and sort of the way he's represented himself, you can actually celebrate connections to multiple communities and have a coherent public identity," Bratter said.

Bratter is biracial, with a black mother and a white father.

"There's no question -- mixed race youth are watching this and it's very reassuring to see someone like him emerge," she said. "He talks very openly about his white parentage, his Kenyan parentage as well as being raised in Hawaii as well as Chicago, and it all gets bound up in the same narrative. I think for a multiracial person, it's all very inspiring that he can do all that."

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