Barack Obama cruised to victory Tuesday night in an historic triumph that promised change, overcame centuries of prejudice and fulfilled Martin Luther King's dream that a man be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.
Obama, a first-term senator with little experience on the national level, made history by becoming the nation's first black president and defeating Sen. John McCain in a landslide.
In his acceptance speech before some 150,000 supporters in Grant Park in Chicago, Obama complimented McCain on a hard-fought campaign and promised that a "new dawn of American leadership is at hand."
"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," Obama said, echoing a key theme of his campaign.
Looking ahead to an economic crisis and turbulent foreign affairs, he told the sea of supporters, "There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face."
Obama was joined by his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, and he again paid tribute to his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died Monday a day before his historic triumph.
He had a special message, however, for his daughters.
"Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much," he said, "and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."
Obama had a special text message for supporters as well, telling them digitally, "We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion to this campaign. All of this happened because of you. Thanks, Barack"
McCain called Obama from Phoenix to concede the election at 10 p.m. in Chicago. Soon after, the Arizona senator went before his supporters to thank them and graciously applaud the man who defeated his ambitions.
Acknowledging the momentous moment of a black man winning the White House, McCain said, "We've come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation."
"I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us," McCain said.
"I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president, and I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair in our present difficulties but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit."
President Bush also called Obama shortly after 11 p.m. to say, "Mr. President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters."
Bush invited Obama to the White House and said to his successor, "I promise to make this a smooth transition. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life."
Obama's history-making victory was fueled by his soaring rhetoric, his themes of change and hope in uncertain economic times, as well as deep dissatisfaction with the last eight years of the Bush administration.