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CHICAGO — Barack Obama defeated John McCain to become the first African American elected president of the U.S.
The 47-year-old Democratic senator from Illinois sealed his victory by defeatingMcCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa.
“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,” said Obama in his acceptance speech.
He then went on to thank those who made his victory possible: “I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama.Â Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.Â And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am.Â I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
“But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you.”
Before Obama made his way to Grant Park, McCain gave a concession speech from his home state of Arizona. “In a contest as long and difficult as this has been [Sen. Obama’s] success commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. He managed to do so much by inspiring the hopes of some millions of Americans who once wrongly believed they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an AmericanÂ president,” said McCain. “It is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving. This is an historic election. I recognize the special significance it has forÂ African Americans. And for the special pride that must be there tonight. I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.”
Transformational is an adjective that has been frequently applied to Barack Obama and tonight he has transformed a nation. His victory comes 40 years after a period when some blacks weren’t even allowed to vote.
For the thousands of people who traveled to Obama’s election night celebration in Chicago’s Grant Park, hope took on new meaning tonight. This is especially true of those who live in the city’s poorest neighborhoods that continue to struggle from a history of racial discrimination and extreme economic strife.
“Jesse Jackson used to say that the hands that picked cotton now pick presidents,” says Robert Smith, a San Francisco State University political scientist.Â And given our history it’s particularly interesting that Obama’s actually an African