April 23, 2019 | 71° F

Obama dominates McCain by definitive margin

CHICAGO — Tens of thousands erupted in cheers and tears as Sen. Barack Obama took center stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia, on Chicago's front lawn last night as the first black president elect of the United States.

After warmly embracing his family, Obama stood before the country and the world with a determined expression just before saying, "Hello, Chicago."

A long-awaited change has finally come to America, he said.

"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," Obama said.

The answer is the record number of American citizens who stood outside schools and churches for countless hours to cast their votes because they know a change is needed in America, he said.

"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled," Obama said. "Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America."

Obama said he received a gracious call of congratulations from John McCain earlier in the evening and commended the Arizona senator on an honorable effort.

"Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign," Obama said. "And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him. I congratulate Gov. [Sarah] Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead."

Obama made many thanks to those individuals who worked to make the campaign a success, beginning with his running mate, Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, his family, including his grandmother who died Monday; followed by his closest advisers, campaign manager David Plouffe and chief strategist David Axelrod.

But Obama commended another group of people on a job well done.

"I will never forget who this victory truly belong to," Obama said. "It belongs to you. It belongs to you. … This is your victory."

Getting down to brass tacks, Obama said he knows his supporters aided the campaign because of the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

"For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," he said.

Obama said he will strive to unite the nation as one and listen to not some, but all American voices.

"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,'" Obama said. "And to those Americans 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."

While Obama said this election had "many firsts and many stories" that will be told for generations, he said he was thinking particularly of Ann Nixon Cooper, who cast her vote in Atlanta last night at 106 years of age.

After seeing a time before cars and planes, when she wasn't allowed to vote because of her race and gender, Nixon experienced a world of change over a century in America.

"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," Obama said. "Yes, we can."

Obama said America has come so far and has seen so much, but still has much to do.

"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 doubts 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," Obama said.

Excitement streamed across the face of 29-year-old Chicago resident Aleda Thompson upon hearing of Obama's win over McCain just before 10 p.m.

"I'm shell-shocked," Thompson said. "I'm ecstatic, I'm witnessing history and I'm a part of history. This is what my grandparents fought for. We were counted as three-fourths of a person, but now that three-fourths of a person is president."

Many supporters were overcome with tears once they heard the news, including 63-year-old Jan Klingberg.

"It's the thrill of my lifetime," said Klingberg, a resident of Evanston, Ill. "There's so much potential for him to unify the country. His whole message of hope, it just makes my spirits soar."

Klingberg said she grew up in a Republican family and for her, Obama's message is one of hope and inclusiveness.

"Taking care of people who are not well off is very important for what I do," she said. "I worked in social services, nonprofit my whole career. So for me, I say, ‘Yes, we can.'"

Other supporters, like 26-year-old Chicago resident Jeff Kurt, were not surprised by Obama's victory.

"It's kind of anticipated, and it's the right move for the country," Kurt said.

Although thousands crowded in and around Grant Park to hear Obama's acceptance speech, hundreds of supporters from near and far began lining the entrance by early afternoon.

Carmen Williams, a 48-year-old Evanston, Ill., resident, said she came to the area to support Obama and what his election as president will mean for her family.

"I'm out here for my mom because of what her generation had to go through in order to give me the opportunity to vote," said Williams, an accountant in Chicago. "I'm here for my 7-year-old daughter to give her hope and to let her know that she can do anything that she chooses, as long as she applies herself. That's why I'm here. It's not for me."

Williams said she has benefitted from the efforts her ancestors made, which gave black people the right to vote.

"Now I have to make struggles for the generations that are going to follow," Williams said.

Many other supporters were from the city itself, including Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers, notoriously known in Wrigley Field for his "Woo!" cheers at Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Dressed in a Cubs uniform with "Obama '08" printed on his jersey, Wickers pumped up supporters with his "Obama, Woo!" cheers throughout the day.

"It's time for a change," Wickers said. "It's a long time coming … give a man a chance. They gave Jackie Robinson a chance and that came out all right, so give Obama a chance."

Additional supporters traveled great distances, like Mississippi resident Kelly Jacobs, who left her home Tuesday at 2:30 a.m. for her eight-hour drive to Chicago.

Dressed in a red, white and blue dress with various Obama paraphernalia, Jacobs became an Obama supporter once Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic primary.

"I helped Hillary — she lost — so I helped Obama because that's what it is all about: It's about ending the war, it's about fixing our economy," Jacobs said.

Caitlin Mahon

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