'I can be more than I am today'

When a Barack Obama victory seemed within reach, the light went on for Phillip McGhee.

If a black man could land the No. 1 job in the nation, maybe McGhee, 21, could score a new job, period, and never go back to dealing drugs. So he applied to be a fuel agent at O'Hare International Airport.

Last week, both men got the jobs, proving to McGhee and others that dreams are attainable when you reach for them.

"You need to be somebody in this world. Nobody's not a good thing," McGhee said, admitting he used to ignore that credo until Obama came along. "It made me think I can be more than I am today."

McGhee's new work will help him support his two infant sons, and he plans to explore more options, including going to trade school to become an electrician.

McGhee shares this new lease on life with a number of other young residents of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood who voted for Obama, celebrated on street corners Tuesday and then continued working to change their lives and follow his example.

His friends, some of them former rival gang members, gather regularly at an office at 79th Street and Ashland Avenue to encourage one another. They say turnout has grown exponentially since Obama announced his candidacy—the sign of a new attitude and loftier expectations.

Parents and grandparents now have higher hopes for their children as well, said Rev. Autry Phillips, a mentor for many of the young men. "They can touch somebody Obama can't touch," Phillips said. That hopeful outlook suggests a new day may have dawned on 79th Street.