World Celebrates Barack Obama’s Historic Win

Americans, international audiences note election’s historic significance

 Supporters of President-elect Barack Obama cheer in the streets in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Stacie Freudnberg)

Votes Reax

Supporters of President-elect Barack Obama cheer in the streets in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Stacie Freudnberg)

In homes and on streets across the United States, Americans celebrated the election of the first African-American president as a significant moment in U.S. history.

Democrat Barack Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, had won the presidency with 349 Electoral College votes (as of noon November 5). Although some ballots remain to be counted, at least 63 million Americans voted for the Illinois senator.

“A new dawn of American leadership is at hand,” Obama said in his acceptance speech. (See “Barack Obama Wins Historic Election Victory.”)

Although Obama’s victory speech was given at midnight EST, many Americans stayed up late to watch him speak. As his speech concluded, neighborhoods across the country filled with people celebrating the historic occasion.

In the nation’s capital, hundreds of college students gathered at George Washington University’s student center to watch results on television. As television networks called the election for Obama, cheers broke out and students hugged each other. A few blocks away, thousands converged outside the White House, waving flags and singing patriotic songs.

In Obama’s hometown of Chicago, more than 125,000 filled the city’s Grant Park to watch the president-elect speak. Television cameras captured images of prominent African-American leaders in tears as they commemorated the occasion.

In Atlanta, hundreds gathered outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. preached. “This is something that my father would be proud of America for,” King’s daughter Bernice King said in Atlanta.

Celebrations were not limited to the United States. Across the world, people gathered at restaurants and other places with televisions to watch the results.

In the small fishing town of Obama, Japan, a town that has celebrated sharing a name with the famous American, more than 30,000 joined in election-related festivities. Many chanted a phrase commonly used by Obama’s supporters in the United States: “Yes we can!”

But perhaps no country was as excited for Obama’s victory as Kenya. The home country of Obama’s father has followed the Illinois senator’s campaign closely, viewing him as one of their own. Cheers erupted throughout Nairobi at 7 a.m. local time when Obama’s win was announced.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared November 6 a national holiday. "Because of his roots here in Kenya, as a country, we are full of pride for his success. I therefore wish to announce that tomorrow … be observed as a public holiday to enable all Kenyans to celebrate this historic achievement for President-elect Obama," Kibaki said.

WORLD LEADERS CONGRATULATE PRESIDENT-ELECT

Across the world, words of support from leaders and average people alike poured in for Obama.

Just minutes after Obama secured the presidency, President Bush called the Illinois senator to congratulate him. “I told the president-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House,” he said at the White House November 5.

“No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,” Bush said. “They showed a watching world the vitality of America’s democracy and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also congratulated Obama, and said the State Department is ready to assist with the transition as well.

On a more personal note, Rice said, “as an African American, I am especially proud because this is a country that’s been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wounds and making race not the factor in our lives. That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”

Leaders from all regions of the world sent congratulatory messages to Obama.

"By choosing you, the American people have chosen change, openness and optimism," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

"In a new historical era, I look forward to ... taking our bilateral relationship of constructive cooperation to a new level," China’s leader, Hu Jintao, said.

"The election of Senator Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States has taken the American people and the rest of the world with them into a new era — an era where race, color and ethnicity, I hope, will also disappear,” said Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Ordinary citizens from around the world also have congratulated the president-elect, leaving comments for Obama on America.gov’s elections blog.

“Congratulations to American people showing to the world being part of the historic moment of the greatest people in history who created democracy! What a nation!” wrote one reader. “The world have hope now, God bless America and all the best to Obama!”

“Mr. Obama is an inspiring man to many people outside the U.S., and we are envious of the smart, courageous, compassionate and wordly leader that the U.S. people have chosen,” wrote another reader. “We are confident that under his leadership, the U.S. can again be a revered and loved people of the world.”