Chicago (US), Nov.5 : U.S. President-elect Barack Obama promised Tuesday that "change is coming to America" as he gave a victory speech after becoming the first African-American to be elected to the White House.
"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 is coming to America," he said in front of a crowd of 65,000 people.
Obama called on Americans to back a spirit of unity to attack the country's pressing challenges.
Obama congratulated defeated Republican John McCain for the long, hard campaign that he fought. He called on Americans to support a "new spirit of sacrifice."
"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said. Obama won the race to the White House by a landslide, securing 349 votes as opposed to McCain's 162 votes. Obama needed 270 votes to win.
Obama asked not to be seen as a black man. In his acceptance speech,he framed the journey of the civil rights struggle in the United States through the person of a 106-year-old woman in Georgia, Ann Nixon Cooper, who voted today.
She was "born just a generation past slavery" but for many years couldn't vote for two reasons, he said, shifting the attention slightly off the matter of race: "because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin."
The vivid historic symbols were hers: "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."
He shifted the focus again so that her story was not solely about race.
A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination," Obama said, conveying the passage of time.
And then this: "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."
It was arguably the most stirring part of his speech. The occasion called for more grandeur than Obama seemed to allow himself. His muting of the racial component perhaps signaled the way he intends to govern, not as the black president but, as he said, the president of the whole country.