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President-elect Obama Set to Form New Administration

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U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is set to begin the task of forming his new administration after a historic election in which American voters selected him to be the first black president of the United States. News reports say Mr. Obama has offered the job of White House chief of staff to Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who is from the president-elect's home state of Illinois. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.

Mr. Obama began his first full day as president-elect with the simple pleasure of having breakfast with his two daughters, the type of everyday family activity that he has often had to sacrifice during his nearly two-year-long campaign for the White House.

The 47-year-old Democratic Senator from the midwestern state of Illinois will become the 44th President of the United States when he is sworn in on January 20, 2009.

He will soon begin to assemble a new White House staff that will shape his administration and form the team to help him confront the nation's problems.

In his victory speech in his hometown of Chicago Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said solving America's problems will not be easy.

"The road ahead will be long," he said. "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."

President-elect Obama defeated his Republican opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain, in a decisive victory that swept away the last racial barrier in American politics.

Mr. Obama is the son of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother. He grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia.

President Bush paid tribute to the historic nature of the election, saying the moment is especially uplifting for those who lived through America's turbulent civil rights era when the vestiges of government-sponsored racial discrimination were overcome.

"They chose a president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story, a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation," he said.

Mr. Bush says he will inform his successor of all important decisions made in the last months of his administration, and says he has invited Mr. Obama and the president-elect's wife, Michelle, to the White House at their earliest convenience.

Preparations for the transition are also underway at the U.S. State Department where Secretary Condoleezza Rice says she will do all she can to ensure a smooth transition of power.

 "As an African American, I am especially proud because this is a country that has been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wounds and making race not the factor in our lives," she said. "That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward."

Mr. Obama's victory was hailed overseas, with particular enthusiasm in Kenya, where he is viewed as a native son.

On the streets of Nairobi a man named Bernard summed up the feelings of many in his country. "I think Kenyan people have got a lot to learn from the American election," he said. "It has shown true democracy. It does not matter what you look like. It does not matter where you come from. It is about what policies you have for the people."

On Wednesday Mr. Obama announced the formal creation of a Washington-based transition team to oversee the handover from the Bush administration.

A statement from the campaign said the three co-chairs of the team will be John Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, Pete Rouse, Mr. Obama's chief of staff in the Senate, and close friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett. 

 

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