The US Presidential election results are historic. Whatever your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that the election of an African-American, born before the Voting Rights Act was passed, is an event of tremendous import. While much of the discourse in this country is understandably focused on this, or on the gains made by the Democratic Party, I was deeply affected by Obama’s victory speech last night.
Political rhetoric or not, the President-elect spoke in sober terms of the challenges ahead and the need for unity. He rightly stated that his victory was simply the beginning of a long road.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there…
And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.
Following his 2004 reelection–in which he won the popular vote by the narrowest margin by a sitting president since 1916–supporters and the media claimed that George W. Bush was given a mandate. Despite receiving seven million votes more than John McCain, Obama struck a tone of conciliation and sobriety.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree…
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.
Those are values that we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. 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.”
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.
I can only hope that Obama means what he says. And I can only hope that he truly understands the challenges we face. Because he’s right, getting ourselves through the painful days and years and decades ahead will take community, honesty, and sacrifice. We’ll likely look back on issues like gay marriage–on which more than $73 million dollars was spent to oppose or defend it—and shake our heads in disbelief to realize just how misguided our priorities were.
Obama’s full speech below: