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Killdeer teen, mom are first in line to see Obama

GRAND FORKS -- Her 10-year-old cousin, Zebulon, beat her to the door to be first in line Friday at the Alerus Center, but Megan Klein, 14, wasn't far behind.

Tall, slim, wrapped in a colorful quilt to ward off the morning chill, Megan beamed as she talked about this "once in a lifetime chance" to see and hear a candidate -- her candidate -- for president of the United States.

She admires the way Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, talks, she said. She agrees with his positions on major issues.

And she sees herself in him.

Megan's mother is white. Her now-absent father was black.

"We like his story," said Megan's mother, Lavae Klein, 34, of Killdee. "A single white mom, a child of both races."

Megan nodded. "It's neat how his story resembles mine," she said, "and how much we have in common."

"The possibilities..." her mother said. "Yeah. I think of the things I can do that he's done."

She has thought she might like to become a dentist or a physical therapist, she said.

And she's given some thought lately to politics.

"I like to help people," she said. "Like he does."

With grandmother Diane Klein, 59, of New England, the family had driven 5½ hours from Killdeer to Devils Lake on Thursday, then made the final leg to Grand Forks early Friday. They arrived at the Alerus about 8:30 a.m. -- four hours before the doors were opened to the public and nine hours before Obama was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the state Democratic-NPL Party convention.

"I'm a big Obama fan, and opportunities like this don't come very often in North Dakota," Lavae Klein said. "It's history in the making.

"I like the way he speaks of hope and change. He's positive. And I think he would improve what other countries think about us and get us back into their good graces."

Zebulon -- or Zeb -- was to compile a report on his trip for school, so he had his aunt take pictures: Zeb setting off from Killdeer, Zeb stopping at the geographical center of North America marker in Rugby, Zeb being first at the Alerus doors, and Zeb being interviewed by a reporter.

He's for Obama, he said, because he thinks the Illinois senator might do something about high gasoline prices.

The price of gas weighs heavily on 10-year-old minds in Killdeer?

"Well, maybe if it was lower, my dad would take us hunting and fishing more," he said.

By 11 a.m., only about 50 people had queued up to be first into public seating for the 5:30 p.m. speech by Obama and 7:30 p.m. speech by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

They included Ginny Tupa of Grand Forks, wearing a monster-cookie-sized Clinton button and carrying a large Hillary banner -- and a Danielle Steele novel "in case I get bored waiting," she said.

"I'm feeling a little lonely right now," she added, surrounded as she was by Obama partisans. "But they've been behaving."

That drew a laugh from Marina Havard, a New Yorker who is living in Winnipeg -- she's married to a Canadian -- and who supports Obama.

"We're all Democrats," she said. "All of us want to see a change.

"If Obama weren't running, I'd support Hillary. But I'm looking for a candidate who represents what younger people are feeling. I'm tired of the war and all the money we're spending on it that could be spent on health care and schools."

The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.