Sen. Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination to Sen. Barack Obama Saturday in Washington.
"The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States," Clinton said.
"Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulated him on the victory he has won. ... I endorse him and throw my full support behind him."
Clinton began lightly, telling the cheering crowd, "Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company."
Thousands gathered at the National Building Museum as Clinton thanked supporters, formally endorsed Obama and urged Democrats to unite behind him in an effort to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain in November.
"I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit," Clinton said, as she called for her supporters to fall in line behind Obama's nomination.
"We may have started on separate journeys but today our paths have merged and we're all heading toward the same destination."
"Today I am standing with Sen. Obama to say, 'Yes, we can!' " Clinton said.
For many Clinton supporters -- particularly women who had hoped the former first lady would become the nation's first female presidential nominee of a major party -- the end is difficult to accept.
"I'm heartbroken," said Arnica Fisher, who got up at 3 a.m. to road trip from Redding, Pa., to be at the speech.
"You physically feel it," she added, with tears welling in her eyes.
Clinton made gender a central theme of her concession speech.
"I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities that my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about her daughter's future," Clinton said. "To build that future we must understand that women and men alike understand the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers."
"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling, thanks to you it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before," she said.
Clinton invoked the suffragists who fought for women's right to vote and civil rights leaders who advocated on behalf of equal rights for African-Americans as she insisted, "The path will be a little easier next time ... that has always been the history of progress."
It's a dramatic end to one of the longest, most closely fought primary races in recent history, and one that is unbelievable to many of Clinton's most ardent supporters.
"I don't think that it has completely set in yet," said Karen Defilippi, 25, a Clinton supporter who quit her job at a university in Washington last August to work for Clinton's campaign in Iowa and other primary states.
Defilippi, who is now out of a job, defended Clinton's decision to wait until Wednesday to acknowledge Obama's victory.
"It was just a little too soon for people," said Defilippi. "Her supporters are strong supporters, and I don't think they were ready to accept it."
The line to enter the National Building Museum in Washington stretched around the block, many supporters are from the area, but some drove in from out of state.