It was the election that shook the world. On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Hussein Obama opened an audacious chapter in the history books by becoming the first African American-elected president of the United States.
His victory was greeted by jubilant crowds across the world, from the street corners of Harlem to the village of Kogelo, Obamaâ€™s ancestral home in western Kenya. Tears were shed by members of the civil rights generation who vividly remember a country that denied legions of black Americans the right to vote less than 50 years ago, while cheers came from the multi-hued masses of young people who seized the significance of the moment.
In his victory speech in Chicagoâ€™s Grant Park, Obama proclaimed: â€śItâ€™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.â€ť
The nationâ€™s 44th president is the type of leader our editors have championed in the pages of this magazine for almost four decadesâ€”an African American with a razor-sharp intellect, top-notch skills, and exceptional credentials who can perform at the highest level. In this case, Obamaâ€™s stage is the world theater.
Welcome to the â€śAge of Obama.â€ť He comes to office with a powerful mandate to fix America. His landslide defeat of his Republican opponentâ€”he gained 364 electoral votes to Sen. John McCainâ€™s 162â€”confirmed this. In the popular vote, more than 66 million Americans (a whopping 53% of voters) cast their ballots for Obama, who received 95% of the black vote, 43% of the white vote, and 66% of the Hispanic voteâ€”the highest numbers ever for a Democrat. Just as important, he brought a new generation to the polls, capturing 66% of voters under 30 and 71% of first-time voters. And as America watched the returns, the country witnessed how he redrew the electoral map, winning a slew of so-called red states such as Indiana and North Carolina.
But as voters revel in this zeitgeist moment, the president-elect acknowledged â€śthe challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest in our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.â€ť He comes to office with the greatest test of any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt inherited the Great Depression 79 years ago. Itâ€™s hard to downplay the enormous and overwhelming challenges awaiting Obama, but he shows promise of being a truly transformational president like Lincoln, who preserved the union; FDR, who gave America his New Deal politics; Kennedy, who made a nation envision its destiny of greatness and achievement; Reagan, who forged a conservative revolution; and Clinton, who built a â€śbridge to the 21st century.â€ť
This analysis is not just hero worship. On the campaign trail, Obama demonstrated cool, calm, collective leadership backed by a steel spine. He has brought a new, inclusive generation to power. His election signaled the end of baby boomer domination of politics and business, replaced by a phalanx of energetic, change-oriented post-boomers and GenXers. As part of this new guard, Obamaâ€™s