Reflections of the Dream

Voter Compares Election to March on Washington

When Phillip Taylor arrived at the Gage Elementary School polling place in Northwest Washington, D.C., the civil rights movement was on his mind. For him, voting for Sen. Barack Obama helped make the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. come true. Taylor, 55, who uses a walker because of a foot injury, could not walk up a ramp to enter the voting area. So Janet Arnold, an election official, took a paper ballot outside for Taylor to vote in this historic election that offers an African American for president or a woman for vice president. “Other than the history, we need change,” Taylor said of the past eight years. “We can’t do no worse. We can only do better.” Taylor is a regular voter and believes he should “take advantage of the opportunity” to exercise his rights as a citizen.

Looking around at the Election Day activity, he said, “This reminds me of the March on Washington. Have you seen the Reflecting Pool? Well it brings it back to me.” Taylor described how his mother took him and his five younger siblings to the march. “It was six of us tied together during the march.” That was Taylor’s first time seeing black people come together as a movement. “There was such unity. I had never seen it before.” (Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on August 28, the exact date as the march on Washington in 1963.) Mr. Taylor stopped to talk with Maria Fyodorova, his neighbor, who also had just cast her vote for Obama. She is white, and after she and her husband left, Taylor said, “Not all of them are bad.” Taylor remembers his days in the National Guard in Texas when a white colleague helped him. “In the service I would get homesick and I wanted to come home, but every time I tried I would have guard duty,” except for the time the white guardsman covered his shift for him. The importance of Election Day left Taylor emotional and he reflected on his life experiences, saying, “I come from the projects.” Later in life, he excelled in completing a photocopy training program. “My proudest day was when I found out that I was No.1 in my class.”

After Taylor completed his ballot, he displayed a new kind of pride. He put his “I Voted” sticker on his walker and exclaimed, “This is my new bumper sticker!”