Looking Back On A Long Election

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Barack Obama has achieved what many didn't think possible. It was a long race. Alex Chadwick reflects on the past two years and on last night's election outcome.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It's an easy observation that this has been an election about the past versus the future, but that doesn't make it any less true just because it's easy. It's what these two men told us from the beginning, isn't it? What is experience but the past, and hope, what else is hope but the future with good intentions. The future doesn't always win these contests, the future versus the past, but it won this time.

President-Elect OBAMA (Former Senator, Democrat, Illinois): This our moment. This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that out of many, we are one.

CHADWICK: This is not the biggest reason he won probably, or even high up on the list maybe, but he tells the best story about us. That's powerful. In Grant Park last night, he borrowed from King and Lincoln, those are words we cannot hear too often. Aren't you always going to remember how you heard that moment?

President-Elect OBAMA: And from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the earth. This is your victory...

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

President-Elect OBAMA: And I know you didn't do this just to win to an election. I know you didn't do it for me.

CHADWICK: Modesty aside, he's wrong there. It really is about him for millions and tens of millions of people, who came not just to vote for him, but to believe in him, too. That will be a weight to bear, the belief of others. It's why people feel that flicker of anxiety, that sense of vulnerability that comes with the quality of that kind of thing.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: And some other notes from last night. John McCain told his people, I don't know what else we could have done. I'll leave that to the judgment of others. You know, that discussion is coming for his party. It must be some relief to the senator that he doesn't need to join in it if he doesn't want to.

William Faulkner said, the past is never dead. It's not even passed. And so, it isn't gone, and it won't be, but maybe after yesterday, on the scale of our time, the past and all its regrets seem a little smaller. There's more room for the future, which is where we're going anyway with this daring adroit leader. The present, where we live now, has never felt more uncertain, the collapse of banks, the loss of homes, the wars. We like it that Barack Obama sees this and seems so calm, and we like it that he's already astonished us more than once.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And from the Magic Johnson Starbucks in the Ladera Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles, I'm Alex Chadwick.

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