The morning after he won re-election, an emotional President Barack Obama credited his youthful staff of several hundred with running a campaign that will "go on in the annals of history."
"What you guys have accomplished will go on in the annals of history and they will read about it and they'll marvel about it," said Obama told his team Wednesday morning inside the Chicago campaign headquarters, tears streaming down his face.
"The most important thing you need to know is that your journey's just beginning. You're just starting. And whatever good we do over the next four years will pale in comparison to whatever you guys end up accomplishing in the years and years to come," he said.
The moment, captured by the Obama campaign's cameras and posted online, offers a rare glimpse at the president unplugged and emotional. During the first four years of his presidency, Obama has never been seen publicly crying.
He first came to Chicago, he told the campaign staff, "knowing that somehow I wanted to make sure that my life attached itself to helping kids get a great education or helping people living in poverty to get decent jobs and be able to work and have dignity. And to make sure that people didn't have to go to the emergency room to get health care."
"The work that I did in those communities changed me much more than I changed those communities because it taught me the hopes and aspirations and the grit and resilience of ordinary people," he said, as senior strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina looked on. "And it taught me the fact that under the surface differences, we all have common hopes and we all have common dreams. And it taught me something about how I handle disappointment and what it meant to work hard on a common endeavor, and I grew up."
"So when I come here and I look at all of you, what comes to mind is, it's not that you guys remind me of myself, it's the fact that you are so much better than I was in so many ways. You're smarter, you're so better organized, you're more effective," he said.
Obama said he expected many of those who helped to re-elect him will assume new roles in progressive politics, calling that prospect a "source of my strength and inspiration."
Senior campaign officials said Thursday that the Obama campaign infrastructure - the field offices and network of hundreds of thousands of volunteers - would undergo a period of transition in the coming weeks to determine how to remain sustainable and influential.
"We have remarkable staff, and the campaign that Jim [Messina] put together, you know, is the best in history," said senior Obama adviser David Plouffe. "But the reason those people got involved was because they believed in Barack Obama. It was the relationship between them and our candidate."