by Dan Nowicki – Nov. 5, 2008 01:34 AM
The Arizona Republic
Barack Obama, the cool and collected Hawaiian-born son of a man from Kenya and woman from Kansas, whose promise of “change” inspired a generation of young people, shattered the last racial ceiling in U.S. politics Tuesday to become the first African-American elected president.
Obama, a freshman Democratic senator from Illinois, crushed his Republican foe, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to capture a White House controlled for the past eight years by GOP President George W. Bush. In a striking repudiation of the Bush era, Obama won in an Electoral College landslide.
Obama’s historic win comes 40 years after the assassination of civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and 45 years after King’s dramatic “I Have a Dream” speech. And it comes at a time when the United States is militarily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and reeling under economic pressures not felt in decades. OAS_AD(‘ArticleFlex_1’)
“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 has come to America,” the triumphant Obama told more than 100,000 supporters at Grant Park in Chicago.
Obama’s breakthrough was symbolic and transitional. Obama, 47, becomes the fourth-youngest elected president and the first too young to have served in the Vietnam War. McCain, 72, a former Navy aviator who spent more than five years in Hanoi as a prisoner of war, would have been the oldest president to take office.
For McCain, the disappointment caps a 26-year career representing Arizona on Capitol Hill. He returns from the campaign trail with two years left on his Senate term. He joins his Senate predecessor, the late Barry Goldwater, in the history books as an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate. Goldwater, the only other Arizonan to secure the nomination of a major political party, lost to Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
McCain, flanked by wife Cindy, running mate Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, saluted his opponent and acknowledged “the special significance” Obama’s win holds for African-Americans and “for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.”
“A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time,” McCain told the upbeat crowd at the Arizona Biltmore in central Phoenix. “There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.”