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After Obama Victory, Work Begins on Presidential Transition

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Americans are marking the election of Barack Obama as the country's 44th president, and the first African-American to reach the summit of U.S. politics.  VOA's Dan Robinson reports.

No longer just a first-term senator from Illinois, now President-elect Obama appeared with his wife Michelle and their two daughters, along with family members and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden before tens of thousands of people in Chicago's Grant Park.

Amid thunderous cheers, Senator Obama said the outcome shows that change has come to America and should prove to any who doubt that all things are possible in America's Democratic system.

"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," he said.

Saying he was never the likeliest candidate to seek the presidency, he said Americans of every background showed they can unite and reject cynicism to bring about change. 

President-elect Obama called his former opponent John McCain a brave and selfless leader. In his concession speech, McCain called Senator Obama's victory a historic moment for Americans and African-Americans in particular, one that moves the country farther from a past marked by intolerance. 

McCain pledged his support to the president-elect.

"I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger better country than we inherited," said McCain.

President-elect Obama's victory was built on an aggressive campaign challenging McCain in states that for decades voted Republican in presidential elections, such as Virginia.  He won in Republican stronghold Indiana, and in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, states President Bush won in 2004.

Mr. Obama drew significant support from newly-registered young voters, and from Hispanic-Americans, especially in the west, and from women, in addition to African-Americans.

Voters ranked the poor state of the U.S. economy highest among their concerns, that include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, President-elect Obama said Americans face great challenges, including two wars and a financial crisis. 

Americans will succeed, he said, as long as they commit to healing divisions and to a new spirit of patriotism, service and sacrifice.

He also sent this message to those watching and listening around the world.

"[To] all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular but are destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand," he said.

President George W. Bush, who leaves the White House in January when Obama is inaugurated, congratulated the president-elect in a telephone call.

Work is underway in the Bush White House and among Senator Obama's staff, on the presidential transition, with some media reports saying Mr. Obama may act quickly on naming a chief of staff.

Democrats who won control of Congress in the 2006 mid-term election have expanded their hold on power, although not as much as they had hoped in the U.S. Senate.  Some vote counting continued through the early hours Wednesday. 

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