My fiancee is a public defender who represents many such kids and who watched the inauguration from the courtroom of the same facility, so I'm a little biased, but everyone recognizes that a big reason for the excitement over Obama's presidency is the way it makes a lot of people feel a little less disenfranchised.
The kids at juvie were no different from the rest of us, with some saying they felt inspired by Obama to get their lives on track, and others holding perhaps irrational expectations for his administration:
Portia, 15, was excited mainly by her belief that the new commander in
chief will commute drug charges from felony to misdemeanor status,
enabling her to get a job and apply for college scholarships. Gary,
also 15, thought Obama might be able to do something about the way
police deal with young people of color.
There was a powerful moment in the otherwise ridiculous and misogynistic (but entertaining) movie Hustle & Flow. The protagonist, D-Jay, an erstwhile pimp, is in jail and is being visited by a friend, who tells D-Jay that one of his former prostitutes had a child. At one point, D-Jay says this:
You know that little girl Keisha, right? One day she gonna dream big, the way kids do, you know. And she gonna come to me and ask me, when she grow up, can she become president? Now, I know that little girl got a ho for a mama and a trick for a daddy, that nobody even know where he at. But I tell you something. I'm gonna look her right in the eye, and I'm gonna lie.
Barack Obama's roots aren't that humble, but at least telling these kids that they can be president will now feel a little less like a lie.