US gets first African-American president
06 Nov 2008
By Guardian Reporter
Barack Obama, a 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history on Tuesday night by winning election as the first African-American president of the United States.
A crowd of 125,000 people jammed Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama addressed the nation for the first time as its president-elect at midnight ET.
Hundreds of thousands more — Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the streets — watched on a large television screen outside the park.
``If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is 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,`` Obama declared.
``Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states,`` he said. ``We have been and always will be the United States of America.
``It`s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,`` he said to a long roar.
McCain notes history in the making
Obama congratulated his opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain Arizona, for his ``unimaginable`` service to the United States, first as a prisoner of war for 5 years in North Vietnam and then for nearly three decades in Congress.
McCain called Obama to offer his congratulations at 11 p.m. ET, Obama`s chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told NBC News.
Obama thanked McCain for his ``class and honor`` during the campaign and said he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them could work together.
Saying, ``The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,`` McCain told supporters in Phoenix that he ``recognized the special significance`` Obama`s victory had for African-Americans.
``We both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation`s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still have the power to wound,`` McCain said.
``Let there be no reason for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth,`` said McCain, who pledged his support and help for the new president.
President Bush called to congratulate Obama and promise a smooth transition of power on Jan. 20, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
``Mr. President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters,`` said Bush, who invited Obama and his family to visit the White House as soon as it was convenient.
The president also called McCain to say that he was proud of the senator`s efforts and that he was “sorry it didn`t work out.``
``You didn`t leave anything on the playing field,`` Bush said.
Surveys of voters as they left polling places nationwide encapsulated the historic nature of the victory by Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas.
As expected, he won overwhelmingly among African-American voters, but he also among women and Latino voters, reversing a longstanding Republican trend. And he won by more than 2-to-1 among voters of all races 30 years old and younger.
In interviews with NBC News, aides to McCain said they were proud that they had put up a good fight in ``historically difficult times.``
A senior adviser said McCain himself was ``fine`` but that he felt ``he let his staff and supporters down.``
Obama will have a strongly Democratic Congress on the other end of Capitol Hill. The Democrats won strong majorities in both the News projected that the party would fall just short of a procedurally important 60 percent ``supermajority`` in the Senate, however.
Meanwhile in Washington, hundreds of residents spilled into the streets near the White House, carrying balloons, banging on drums and chanting, ``Bush is gone!`` Along U Street, once known as America`s Black Broadway for its many thriving black-owned shops and theaters, men stood on car roofs, waving American flags and Obama posters.
In Harlem, thousands of people, black and white, took to the streets, some dancing, others crying tears of joy, in raucous celebration of the nation`s first African-American president.
The roar of a crowd gathered near the legendary Apollo Theater could be heard blocks away.
In Miami, honking horns and fireworks greeted news of Obama`s victory. In Seattle, people poured out of bars, restaurants and houses in the streets near historic Pike Place Market.
In Detroit, carloads of revelers rolled past the bronze sculpture of prizefighter Joe Louis` fist, blaring their horns and chanting ``Obama!`` out of open windows.
The downtown park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention — was transformed by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.
In the crowd, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had tears streaming down his face as he heard the news. Jackson had to apologize during the campaign for crude remarks he made about Obama that were caught by an open microphone.
Tommy Davis, 20, said he heard Obama won the election as he was out walking with friends in Miami. As he spoke, a group of people sitting in the middle of a nearby street in lawn chairs started banging on pans and cheering.
``We were rejoicing, saying we got our first black president. We need a president that`s going to make our country better. And Obama can do that for us,`` Davis said.
In the Ybor City entertainment district of Tampa, Fla., car horns honked and chants of ``O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma`` could be heard when the presidential race was called.
``It`s a landslide! It`s a landslide!`` shouted Mark Bias, 51, who was wearing a tall satin Uncle Sam hat and a red, white and blue cape.
``This means that American will be back on the right track again.``
Hundreds of Obama supporters watched the election coverage at Starlight Restaurant in Greenville, N.C. Many of them began to pour into the streets with signs waving in the air and tears in their eyes, when Obama was elected.
In the crowd in Chicago was Lisa Boon, 42, who said she burst into tears earlier pondering what an Obama victory would mean.
Boon said her father was the cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black Chicagoan who was abducted and killed in Mississippi in 1955, purportedly for whistling at a white woman.
``I was thinking of all the things done to Emmett and injustices to black people,`` Boon said. ``This is amazing, simply amazing.``