Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Obama.

And so it comes to pass. America has chosen Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.

In a victorious speech before an adoring crowd of 125,000 in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, the 47-year-old president-elect said the victory belonged to the American people.

"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.

"We have never been a collection of individuals, a collection of red states and blue states. We are and will always be the United States of America. Because of what we did on this day, change has come to America.

The jubilant crowd, which included Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson supporters cheered, waved flags and shed tears chanted repeatedly throughout the speech, "Yes we can.''

Obama thanked his family, his wife, Michelle, who he called his best friend and love of his life, and his daughters, telling them they had earned their puppy who was coming with them to the White House.

He spoke of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died of cancer on the eve of the election, saying that he knew she was watching him.

Obama also sent out a message to those who had not voted for him, saying that "for those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices … I will be your president too.''

After the years of Bush, of a president who ruled rather than governed, these words should be welcome to all Americans. Over here in Britain the different tone which Obama has always struck was the thing which made us admire him.

The arrogance of the Bush administration has been replaced with a man who genuinely wants to lead with the consensus of all Americans. This isn't a man who is going to say you are either with us or against us. This is a guy who will genuinely try to unite the United States.

To rousing applause, in a climatic moment as he repeatedly told the crowd the victory was not about him but the American people, he said: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

"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.''

And we should not underestimate what we are watching here. It's the death of Rove Republicanism. The American people have said that they want a president who unites rather than divides the nation.

Rove's America was not just turned on its head yesterday. It was broken up and recast in a very different mould. One of Mr Obama's many achievements has been his refusal to accept the permanence of the blue-red divide. He has reached out across the divide to states and voters that the embattled Democratic party of the Reagan-Bush years had forgotten about, places like the South and the Rockies, voters like farmers and small business people.

But his victory, historic as it is, means as much to the rest of the planet as it does to Americans.

Whoever is in power in the United States affects the life of everyone on the planet. The United States has pulled off a miracle. Four years ago the world yearned for Bush to be thrown out of office and was devastated to witness his re-election.

This time there were many people I know who dared not hope that this time the US would do the right thing. But I honestly have never doubted that, this time, the US would. There are very few stars in politics. In my lifetime I have seen, until Obama, only three. Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton.

And a couple of years ago, the very first moment when Obama stepped on to the national stage, we knew that we were looking at a new political star.

For that reason alone I have never doubted that America would elect him.

Overnight the Unites States will see it's unpopularity worldwide recede. They have done the right thing. They have elected a president not just for the United States, they have elected a president for the world.

And, for doing that, the world will be immensely grateful. We all wanted America back, the America of my youth where it led, as Clinton recently said, by the power of it's example rather than by the example of it's power.

Tonight, American delivered. By God, did it deliver. President Obama. Those are two words to savour. As Obama said tonight, "Change has come to America." And, as is true in so many cases, the change that comes to America comes to the rest of the world, whether we want it or not. This time we want it - and are overjoyed by it.

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