"Obama Effect" Touching A New Generation

byron pitts students

It has often been said that, in America, the land of opportunity, any child could grow up to be president. Now, maybe for the first time, black American children have reason to believe that's true. CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Like countless 11-year-old boys, Elijah Morgan of Harlem loves baseball. He collects player autographs - baseball cards.

But now he has a new autograph, and a new hero: Barack Obama.

"I shook his hand," Elijah said. "Took a picture. He told me he signed an autograph that said 'dream big dreams.' And then he signed 'Barack Obama' and he basically told me I could be anything that I want to be."

"What does this do to your heart? 'Dream big dreams to Elijah from Barack Obama?'" Pitts asked Elijah's father, Joe Morgan.

"Well, I think it's more important what it does to his, because what it says to him is that everything is possible," he said.

Across the country, beyond the packed arenas, the "Obama Effect" has touched a new generation. Young black boys and girls, who, for the first time in the nation's history, see the presumptive nominee of a major political party - and his wife, Michelle, and see a reflection of themselves.

Pitts asked 11-year-old Christen Martin: "You're paying attention to presidential politics now?

"Yes sir," Christen said. "Because if he can do it, I can do it."

On the south side of Chicago, Christen has cut back on video games to cut out articles on Obama. His poster of all the U.S. President has a new face.

"If he is on TV, they say, 'momma, momma, Barack Obama is on TV.' And the whole house shuts down and we all gather," said his mother, Rosiland Martin.

It's happening in schools and on college campuses nationwide. Educators report a new and rare interest in presidential politics. Pitts sat down with five students from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

"Our parents had Martin Luther King, someone they can get excited about, and this is our iconic hero," said SWCA student Amber Copeland. "He's our generation - someone to get excited about; someone who inspires change."

"So as you see it on some levels Barack Obama's story is your story?" Pitts asked another student, Darius Dixon.

"On some levels, yes," he said.

"It help to see that it's okay to be the best," said Joseph Williams, a student. "As black males, we can look at that and say, 'you know what? We can strive for excellence."

"Now we see a brighter future through somebody else who, you know, didn't come from a lot of affluence," Darius said. "So there's lot of people who can look up to that and say that, 'I don't have to sit at home and play Xbox all day. I am going to put my head in some books and maybe I, too, can become the next president or the next senator.'"

"So is it fair to say Obama helped make it cool to be smart?" Pitts asked.

"Yes!" Darius answered.

It's a renewed optimism and energy. Even in their parents.

"I have never seen my parents this excited about anything politically," Amber Copeland said.

"My grandfather, he is over 80 years old and from his times I know that he's just astonished at the fact that there is an African American running for president," said Amber Head.

"What really sticks out in my mind is the 'yes we can,' thing. It's just so powerful to me," Joseph Williams said. "Because it says that you can do it no matter what the odds are against you, you can do it."

For these young people, it's not just the politician. It's the audacity of possibility he represents.