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Thousands cheer first black president

Published: Wed, November 5, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.


CHICAGO (AP) — A triumphant Barack Obama vowed to be a president for all America, even those who voted against him, and asked for patience to address America’s problems of war and finance, which the called the greatest challenges of a lifetime.

The first black president-elect cast his election as a defining moment in America’s 232-year history and an answer to cynicism, fear and doubt about the power of democracy.

His victory speech was delivered before a multiracial crowd of more than 100,000 people. Many cried and nodded their heads while he spoke, surrounded by clear bulletproof screens on his left and right.

“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 in his first public words after winning the election.

While strong support in Mahoning and Trumbull counties helped Obama carry Ohio, an important swing state, his vote percentages in the two counties were smaller than those of John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate, who lost his race.

Though the Valley didn’t come through as strong as some expected, Obama supporters were absolutely thrilled with the final results.

Obama will be a strong advocate for cities, such as Youngstown, and areas, such as the Mahoning Valley, that have struggled and are working to better themselves, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who made history in 2005 when he was elected the city’s first black mayor, is hopeful Obama can help the Valley, but we need to be patient. Help for the area from the federal government will come, but it won’t happen the day after Obama is sworn in as president, he said.

He appeared on stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, set to become the first family of color ever to occupy the White House. Every family member dressed in black and red.

To those who voted against him, he said, “I will be your president, too.”

“Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” he said. “There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.”

He was already suggesting a second term to accomplish his goals, saying he expected “setbacks and false starts.”

“We may not get there in one year or even one term,” he said. “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.”

Obama, an Illinois senator born 47 years ago of a white American mother and black African father, sprinkled his address with references to the civil rights struggle.

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