CHICAGO – Yes they did.
The chant shouted Tuesday night was only a two-word modification of the one yelled throughout the previous 21 months of Barack Obama’s campaign.
But the difference was enormous.
Shortly before midnight, Obama took center stage in Grant Park and greeted thousands of screaming supporters as the next president of the United States.
He sent them a message similar to one they’ve heard repeatedly throughout the campaign.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Obama said, “but tonight because of what we did on this date, in this election, change has come to America.”
The next president said that while they achieved something great, there is still an enormous task at hand.
“For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime,” Obama said.
He said now the country must move to focus on issues such as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recent financial crisis.
But – just as he did throughout the campaign – Obama said together the people will rise to meet these challenges.
“The road in the end will be long, the climb will be steep,” Obama said. “We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful that we will get there. I promise you we as a people will get there.”
Obama said in the coming years as president, he will not lose sight of whom his victory is for.
“Above all, I will never forget who this victory really belongs to – you,” he said.
Obama thanked his campaign staff – which he called the best “campaign team ever assembled,” as well as his family and running mate, Sen. Joe Biden.
Obama also praised his opponent Sen. John McCain – who minutes earlier had given his concession speech from Arizona – for his work in the campaign and years of service to the American people.
Obama’s improbable campaign, which started last February in Springfield, Ill., came to a close Tuesday night in front of a crowd that had been gathering throughout the day, many since morning.
Much of Obama’s speech was a refrain from what he has said during his campaign.
Once again, like he did at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 in Boston, he called for a nation united as one people.
“In this country, we rise and fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long,” Obama said.
He also called for a nation that didn’t see divisions by party, race or any other distinction.
Instead he called for a nation joined by a stronger bond.
“We are and always will be the United States of America,” he said.
But in the end, Obama’s message wasn’t about the past, but rather the future. He asked Americans to look forward to their children’s generation.
“What change will they see?” Obama asked. “What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time.”
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.