Barack Obama was elected the forty-fourth president of the United States on Tuesday. The first-term senator from Illinois easily defeated John McCain on Tuesday, winning a larger share of the popular vote than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. We play an excerpt of his victory speech. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: In a historic election, Barack Obama has become the forty-fourth president of the United States. The first-term senator from Illinois easily defeated John McCain Tuesday, winning a larger share of the popular vote than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
If one thing is certain amongst campaign season hyperbole, it’s that Obama’s path to the White House is unprecedented. The first African American president in US history, born in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and an African father from Kenya. From the age of six to ten, Obama spent his young life in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather. He then moved back to Hawaii, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died on Sunday on the eve of Barack Obama’s election; she was eighty-six years old. After graduating from Columbia University, Barack Obama spent three years as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side before entering Harvard Law School. After Harvard, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago and worked in a Chicago law firm specializing in civil rights litigation. He was elected to the Chicago — to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 and the US Senate in November of 2004.
In Chicago, hundreds of thousands of people packed Grant Park and the surrounding neighborhood to hear Barack Obama deliver his victory speech. This is an excerpt.
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: What began twenty-one 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 who — 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 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 have 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 is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 doubt 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.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, addressing hundreds of thousands of people in his home city of Chicago in the historic Grant Park. He started his speech just before midnight, waiting for Senator John McCain to make his concession speech, which he did in Phoenix, Arizona at the Biltmore Hotel.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I don’t know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I’ll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.
This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.
Please. Please. I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.
Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama — whether they supported me or Senator Obama.
I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Republican presidential candidate John McCain conceding defeat in Arizona, his home state, which he just barely won in the election. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. He won the state of Arizona, that is. Barack Obama won in — getting a larger amount of the vote than anyone since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964.