Victory speech delivered before crowd of 125,000
President-elect Barack Obama, left, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden celebrate.
A triumphant Barack Obama vowed to be a president for all America and asked for patience to address the nation’s problems of war and finance that he called the greatest challenges of a lifetime.
The first black president-elect cast his election as a defining moment in the country’s 232-year history and a rebuke to cynicism, fear and doubt.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said in his first public words after winning the election.
His victory speech was delivered before a multiracial crowd that city officials estimated at 125,000 in Grant Park, and possibly thousands more in the surrounding area. Many cried and nodded their heads while he spoke, surrounded by clear bulletproof screens on his left and right.
He appeared on stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, poised to become the first family of color ever to occupy the White House. Every family member dressed in black and red, and Obama told his daughters during his speech that they would get the puppy he promised would come with a victory.
“Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” he said. “There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.”
He was already suggesting a second term to accomplish his goals, saying he expected “setbacks and false starts.”
“We may not get there in one year or even one term,” he said. “But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you — we as a people will get there.”
To those who voted against him, he said, “I will be your president, too.”
Obama, an Illinois senator born 47 years ago of a white American mother and a black African father, sprinkled his address with references to the civil rights struggle. He paid tribute to Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old daughter of slaves born at a time when women and blacks couldn’t vote. She cast her ballot in Atlanta Tuesday, Obama said.
He quoted another president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, and although he didn’t mention Martin Luther King Jr.’s name, he echoed King’s statement that “we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Obama invited “those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
The president-elect said he looks forward to working with Republican rival John McCain, who called him to concede as The Associated Press and television networks called the race at 11 p.m. EST. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama thanked McCain for his graciousness and told him he had waged a tough race.
Gibbs quoted Obama as saying to McCain: “I need your help. You’re a leader on so many important issues”
President Bush called Obama shortly after the Illinois senator hung up with McCain, and Vice President Dick Cheney called Obama running mate Joe Biden. Obama watched McCain’s concession speech from his suite in a downtown hotel, where he had watched returns with Biden, his extended family and senior campaign staff.
A few blocks away, the crowd in Grant Park that included celebrities Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey erupted into cheers to see their chosen candidate break the White House color barrier. Audience members leapt into the air, waving American flags.
The size of the group, spread out toward the Chicago skyline a few blocks in the distance, reflected the eye-popping crowds that Obama drew throughout his campaign. Even the weather favored Obama — the temperature was around 60 degrees as he spoke, unusual for a November night in Chicago.
Obama began the day by casting his vote with his wife and daughters at his side. He unwound while waiting for returns by playing two hours of basketball with friends and staff, then eating a steak dinner at home with his immediate family and in-laws.
He made a final Election Day campaign stop in Indiana, one of several longtime Republican strongholds in the presidential race that he tried to win. It was a symbolic ending of a campaign for a candidate who first made his name with an address to the Democratic National Convention four years ago in which he decried efforts to “slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.”
He repeated that sentiment in his victory speech. “We have never been a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America,” he said.
Supporters of President-elect Barack Obama cry and hold one another after his speech at the election night party at Grant Park in Chicago.
President-elect Barack Obama waves to the crowd after his acceptance speech.
Barack’s big win
Obama’s big win
Around the country and around the world, many celebrated the election of Barack Obama to the White House.
Producer: JUDY CARLOCK and DYLAN SMITH/Tucson Citizen
Slide 1 of 19.
President-elect Barack Obama speaks in Chicago.
Source: The Associated PressSlide 2 of 19.
President-elect Barack Obama speaks in Chicago.
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A sea of supporters wait for Obama to speak.
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Vice president-elect Joe Biden holds one his grand-daughters during President-elect Barack Obama's election night party.
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Oprah Winfrey waits with Stedman Graham at the election night party for President-elect Barack Obama at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night.
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Michelle Moore, of Boise, takes a picture of her husband Tom Moore, as he stands with a Barack Obama life size cutout at the Idaho Democratic Headquarters at the Hilton Garden Inn in Boise, Idaho.
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The crowd reacts as it is announced on television that Barack Obama has been elected the President of the United States at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night.
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Christine King Farris, sister of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., is embraced by Rushie Jones after a cable news channel projected Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as the winner during an election-night party at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Tuesday.
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Jesse Jackson weeps as returns come in.
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A group in Japan celebrates Obama's win.
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A member of Democrats Abroad in the Philippines gestures as she watches results leading to the predicted victory of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama during an election watch in suburban Manila, Philippines on Wednesday.
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Kenyan family members of U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama celebrate after his victory in the U.S. election was announced, at the family's homestead in Kogelo village, Kenya. The village is where Obama's step-grandmother lives. Barack Obama's Kenyan family erupted in cheers Wednesday, singing "We are going to the White House!" as Obama became the first African-American elected president in the United States.
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Emily Berkson, from Chicago, left, and Krista Anne Nordgren from Chapel Hill, N.C. watch the speech of President-Elect Barack Obama in an overflow area of Grant Park.
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Obama celebrates with his daughter, Malia.
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U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Kopecky, 24, from Manitowoc, Wis., left, phones home as a television broadcasts U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq
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Obama kisses his wife, Michelle, after his acceptance speech.
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Marissa Wilkes, left, and Ladona Miller react as they learn of Barack Obama's victory during an election party for Senator-elect Kay Hagan in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday.
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The marquee of the famous Apollo theater proclaims the victory of President-elect Barack Obama early Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 in the Harlem section of New York.
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In Phoenix, U.S. Sen. John McCain, with running mate Sarah Palin, reassured crowds at the Arizona Biltmore, silencing when they booed Sen. Barack Obama.
Source: The Associated Press
OBAMA’S VICTORY SPEECH
Text of Democrat Barack Obama’s speech in Chicago after winning the presidential election, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:
OBAMA: Hello, Chicago.
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.
A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.
Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he’s fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.
I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they’ve achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.
I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton … and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.
And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years … the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady … Michelle Obama.
Sasha and Malia … I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us …to the new White House.
And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother’s watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you’ve given me. I am grateful to them.
And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe … the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best — the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.
To my chief strategist David Axelrod … who’s been a partner with me every step of the way.
To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics … you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.
It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy … who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.
It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.
This is your victory.
And I know you didn’t do this just to win an election. And I know you didn’t do it for me.
You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.
Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.
There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage or pay their doctors’ bills or save enough for their child’s college education.
There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.
I promise you, we as a people will get there.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!
OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.
Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
That’s the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.
And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.
Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: Yes we can.
OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.
This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.