Barack Obama has been elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African-American elected to the office. Mike O'Sullivan reports, the Democratic senator from Illinois promised to unify the country when he takes office, January 20, 2009.
In Grant Park in Chicago, hundreds of thousands of supporters reacted with screams of joy as American television networks projected Barack Obama as the next U.S. president.
In Phoenix, Arizona, losing Republican candidate Senator John McCain conceded the race, telling his somber supporters they had reached the end of a long journey.
"The American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly," said McCain. "A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love."
A short time later, Senator Obama mounted the stage in Chicago with his wife and two daughters, then spoke to his supporters in a televised address that was seen around the world.
"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," he said.
The election is historic. When Mr. Obama takes office in January, he will become first the African-American president in the nation's 232-year history. His election ends eight years of Republican control of the White House under President George W. Bush.
As the vote count progressed, the Democrat far outpaced his rival in the state-by-state tally of electoral votes. The winning candidate needs 270 electoral votes. Senator McCain fell far short, as Mr. Obama won such contested states as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which many saw as crucial for a McCain victory.
In his victory speech in Chicago, Mr. Obama spoke of the challenges facing the nation, which include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what he called a planet in peril and the worst financial crisis in a century.
"There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet, alliances to repair. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep," said Mr. Obama. "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."
As Senator Obama called for unity in the face of the country's problems, Senator McCain pledged his support, despite the differences the two men expressed in the campaign.
"No doubt, many of those differences remain," McCain said. "These are difficult times for our country and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face."
In cities around the United States, there were gatherings to celebrate the historic election. VOA's Kane Farabaugh was in the crowd in Chicago.
"There's a few tears, but many more smiles," said Farabaugh. "I would say the atmosphere here is jubilant."
In Washington, D.C., Edward Badu, who was born in the African nation of Ghana, was thrilled. Senator Obama has African links himself. His father was born in Kenya. Badu said he can scarcely believe what has happened.
"It looks like it's a dream, you know. Yeah, it is like a dream," he said. "I still can't believe it."
Angela Young, from Atlanta, was in Washington on business, and says she felt the same excitement.
"I think it's wonderful. I mean, just the sense of pride for America, period. And, a lot of hope," she said. "Real hope."
This presidential race aroused intense interest around the world. Senator Obama had a message for those who are viewing events in America from a distance.
"And, all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared," said Mr. Obama. "The new dawn of American leadership is at hand."
President-elect Obama will enter office with a sympathetic Congress. Democrats strengthened their grip on both the House of Representatives and Senate in Tuesday's election, winning Republican-held Senate seats in Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire and North Carolina. They fell short of the 60 Senate seats they had hoped for, which would have allowed them to avoid procedural blocks known as filibusters. This will be the first time since 1995 that the Democrats have held the presidency and a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.