Thursday, November 27, 2008

Financial literacy: A way out of economic crisis

By DeWayne Wickham

Like many other people, I’m feeling the ripple effects of the economic meltdown this country is now experiencing. If the losses I’ve suffered in my retirement account can’t be recovered, I may have to work well into my golden years before I can retire.

I worry that I won’t have the savings to help put the last of my three daughters through college. And I fear that as the value of the nation’s housing stock declines, the equity my wife and I have built up in our home will shrink further and rob us of the financial security we’ve built up over a lifetime of work.

Having spent 20 years of my life in public housing, I know what it is to be knee-deep in poverty and I understand the angst of those whose current financial situation is more perilous than mine.
But if this nation is going to do more than just survive this brush with economic collapse we must realize that a big part of the fix we need is a massive financial literacy education program.

The lack of financial literacy is the tip of the spear that has pierced the soft underbelly of this nation’s economic system. Sure, for a lot of people, greed is a big part of the problem. Too many folks knowingly charged more than they could afford on a seemingly endless supply of credit cards. And a lot of people bought homes with exotic mortgages they knew were a financial sleight of hand.

But there are also a lot of people who didn’t know better – people who accepted the onslaught of credit card offers and too-good-to-be-true home mortgage deals because they were financially illiterate. They are the dupes of the financial mess we now face.

A short term solution to the problem many of these people face surfaced a couple days ago when the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department announced an $800 billion plan to make it less costly for Americans to buy a home, a car and make credit card purchases.

But if we want to avoid a replay of the current economic crisis, the federal government needs to push financial literacy training in our schools. Too many schools graduate students who are illiterate when it comes to managing their money.

They don’t understand the need to live within their means. They don’t know the long-term value of a personal savings account. They buy cars they can’t afford, clothes they don’t need and homes that cost more than they can actually pay.

In most cases, these people are drawn into making bad decisions by the deceptive advertising of credit card companies that bury their true cost in fine print, and mortgage lenders that offer homebuyers deals in which the real cost of a home doesn’t come due until long after the unsuspecting buyers have moved in.

Schools need to do more to keep people from falling prey to these predatory practices. They need to not only teach students how to manage a checking account (which too many graduates can’t do), they have to help them understand the actual cost of a purchase made on a credit card that charges its users a double-digit interest rate.

For a lot of Americans, credit cards are as addictive as crack cocaine.

Schools need to teach students that Social Security was never intended to be a person’s primary source of retirement income. It was supposed to supplement the savings people amassed over a lifetime of work.

The billions being spent now by the federal government to bail the nation out of this financial mess is a short-term fix. Increasing the financial literacy of Americans is a big part of what it will take to find a long-term solution.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Al-Zawahiri doesn't know Malcolm X

By DeWayne Wickham

The more I think about this, the more it bothers me.

From his hiding place, probably a deep cave somewhere in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan or Pakistan, Osama bin Laden's mouthpiece, Ayman al-Zawahiri, took a cheap shot at Barack Obama.

He called the president-elect a "house Negro." That's a derogatory term that is used to describe blacks who are servile to whites.
On the streets of Chicago's Southside, where Obama comes from, those are fighting words. But with less than two months to go before he moves into the White House, Obama has decided not to "play the dozens" with al-Zawahiri.

The dozens is trash talking, usually between two inner-city guys who hurl insults at each other in a rhythmic cadence while the level of hooting and hollering of people around them score their verbal clash. Al-Zawahiri would have been an easy target for a rapid offering of some of the "yo' momma" jokes that guys who play the dozens often hurl about - if Obama had decided to strike back.

He didn't, but I will. Not because I think it is my job to defend Obama. It isn't. It's my job is to "seek truth and report it" - and al-Zawahiri's charge that this nation's first black president is a house Negro is far from true. It reeks of the big lie that megalomaniacs like bin Laden and al-Zawahiri use to pull gullible people into their orbit.

"You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like ... Malcolm X," al-Zawahiri said of Obama in a post-election videotape that surfaced last week. "You were born to a Muslim father, but chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayers of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."

To strengthen his point, al-Zawahiri appears in the video flanked by an image of Malcolm X and a photo of Obama wearing a yarmulke during a visit to Israel earlier this year. But al-Zawahiri's words betray his ignorance of the true Malcolm X. Five days before he was assassinated on Feb. 16, 1965, the civil rights activist gave a speech in Rochester, N.Y. that rejected the us-against-them religious dogma of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

"I believe in one God ... And that that God taught all of his prophets the same religion, so there is no argument about who was greater or who was better: Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, or some of the others. All of them were prophets who came from one God," Malcolm X said at the time.
"They had one doctrine, and that doctrine was designed to give clarification of humanity, so that all of humanity would see that it was one and have some kind of brotherhood ... I believe in that," he continued. "I believe in the brotherhood of man."

So does Obama, who - when he is sworn into office on Jan. 20 - will assume an office that Malcolm X didn't live long enough to even imagine a black man one day holding. How were blacks going to get around the segregationists and racists who held so much power in the federal government, he asked in that Rochester speech? "Now how are we going to get around them? How are we going to get justice in a Congress that they control ... Or a White House that they control?" he asked.

I think Malcolm X would believe that Obama, who won the presidency with the backing of 95% of black voters, hardly fits the description of a "house Negro." I think he would look at Obama and see a black man who is intent upon making America's future much better than its past - for all of us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama's no "house Negro"

By DeWayne Wickham

So, Ayman al-Zawahiri wants to “play the dozens.”

That’s what it sounds like to me from his recorded response to Barack Obama’s election victory. Why else would Osama bin Laden’s mouthpiece call the president-elect a “house Negro.”

Playing the dozens is a game I’m sure Obama, a former community organizer, knows well. It’s a public exchange of insults between black youths that often takes place in this nation’s inner cities. More than anything else, playing the dozens is a war of words – ugly words. Calling someone a “house Negro” is to accuse them of being servile to whites.

In his attack on Obama, al-Zawahiri draws his invective from a 1963 speech in which Malcolm X described the conflicting roles of field slaves and those who worked in their master’s house.

“The house Negroes – they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good 'cause they ate his food – what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself…Just as the slave master of that day used Tom, the house Negro, to keep the field Negroes in check, the same old slave master today has Negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us under control, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent,” Malcolm X said.

Al-Zawahiri believes this house Negro description fits Obama.

I think he’s spent too much time in the caves of Afghanistan and Pakistan hiding from American troops. Far from a house Negro, Obama is the master of the White House he will soon move into. In less than two months he’ll be this nation’s commander-in-chief.

People who play the dozens battle for respect. Not needing the deference of al-Zawahiri and bin Laden, Obama chose not to respond to this verbal attack. And in a way that might be an even bigger putdown. But during a recent interview on “60 Minutes,” Obama made it clear he has bin Laden – the al-Qaida leader who ordered the September 11 terrorist attacks – in his crosshairs.

“I think it is a top priority for us to stamp out al-Qaida once and for all. And I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaida,” said the President-elect. “He is not just a symbol, he’s also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against US targets.”

The verbal shot Al-Zawahiri took at Obama appears to have been intended to rally opposition to him among Muslims, who hold in high esteem Malcolm X, a one-time member of the Nation of Islam who near the end of his life changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and practiced a more traditional form of Islam.

In his message, Al-Zawahiri condemned Obama for wearing a Jewish skullcap during a July visit to Israel. But that’s the kind of religious demonization that Malcolm X rejected after his conversion. “I believe in one God…And that that God taught all of his prophets the same religion, so there is no argument about who was greater or who was better: Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, or some of the others. All of them were prophets who came from one God,” he said in a Rochester, N.Y. speech five days before his assassination, on Feb. 16, 1965.

“They had one doctrine, and that doctrine was designed to give clarification of humanity, so that all of humanity would see that it was one and have some kind of brotherhood…I believe in that,” he said. “I believe in the brotherhood of man.”

And so does Barack Obama, whose great political success would surely delight – not enrage – Malcolm X.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comedian Paul Mooney slams Al Qaida official who called Obama a "House Negro"

By DeWayne Wickham

Shortly after the story broke that Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri called President-elect Barack Obama a "House Negro," comedian Paul Mooney - who knows how to play the dozens - cracked on the cave-dwelling terrorist.

"If Obama's a 'House Negro,' he's a sand nigger," Mooney said of Zawahiri, who apparently doesn't understand that he can't slam a black man without taking return verbal fire.

Zawahiri's lucky comedian George Wallace didn't go on the attack with some of his "yo' momma" blasts. You've got to wonder how Zawahiri would take it in his den if Wallace said this of his mother: "Yo momma so ugly they filmed, 'Gorillas in the Mist,' in her shower."

Of course, Wallace didn't say that about Zawahiri's mom, but he just might be preparing to lob some of his best slams at the al-Qaida mouthpiece, if he disses this nation's first black president again.

So stay tuned, this could get real ugly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bush: Africa's "compassionate conservative"

By DeWayne Wickham

A few hours before one of the nation’s leading African American organizations made what many would consider an oxymoronic gesture of bestowing its Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award upon President Bush, a senior State Department official tried to make the case for that action.

“From a policy point, I’ve never seen Africa policy better served than under President Bush,” said Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs. “There’s not a single thing that we said we were going to do in 2000 that we haven’t done…

“We’ve done everything we said we were going to do and we’ve done far more than I ever expected, and I’ve been working Africa issues for more than 30 years. The administration’s record far exceeded my own expectations,” Frazer boasted.

Of course, every president – even one as maligned as Bush – tries to put the best face on the things he’s done. And there is usually no shortage of political appointees who stand ready to sing their praise.

But the honor Bush received last week from Africare, the oldest and largest black-run African aid organization, didn’t come from a right wing group bent on burnishing his record. And Frazer – who soon will leave government for a position at Carnegie Mellon University – is no self-serving flatterer.

Despite Bush’s failure to live up to his “compassionate conservative” label at home, he did better than most people are willing to give him credit for in his dealings with Africa, a continent long victimized by the geopolitical tug of war between America and its adversaries.

“The Bush administration has broadened and deepened U.S. policy towards Africa,” said Melvin Foote, president and CEO of Constituency for Africa, a coalition of groups that work to improve conditions in Africa. “I don’t know if it got involved for all the right reasons, but once it got involved it realized this was a good thing to do,” Foote said of the Bush administration’s efforts to stabilize Africa’s fledgling democracies and combat its daunting health problems.

Most impressive of these efforts has been Bush’s efforts to stop the spread and treat the victims of AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa, where there were 22 million people infected with HIV at the end of last year.

Earlier this year Bush signed a bill that authorized up to $48 billion to combat HIV/AIDS tuberculosis, and malaria – most of it to be spent in sub-Sahara Africa – between 2009 and 2013. Since 2003, the Bush administration has provided funding to increase the number of Africans receiving antiretroviral drugs from 50,000 to about 1.4 million, Frazer said.

“It’s probably true that the Bush administration has directed more resources to the African AIDS problem than did the Clinton administration,” said Nicole Lee in a grudging offering of support. But Bush’s African AIDS program has been "a double-edge sword,” said Lee, executive director of TransAfrica, a Washington-based advocacy organization for Caribbean and African policy.

It’s been undermined, Lee said, by the Gag Rule, a Bush administration policy that forbids foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving U.S financial support if they offer abortion or abortion counseling.

This kind of criticism is unwarranted, Frazer said, because Bush rescinded the Gag Rule’s application to its African AIDS relief program in 2003. “It’s one of those little known-things that’s already been taken care of that the activists are still activated about,” she said.

She’s right; the rule’s application to the Africa program was rescinded 5 years ago – an action that largely has escaped public notice by Bush’s right-wing supporters and his left-wing critics.

What shouldn’t go unnoticed by historians is what Bush did to combat the scourge of AIDS in Africa.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

America's new political majority

By DeWayne Wickham

Here's something that's missing from most postmortems of the presidential election: The white majority that has elected 43 American presidents was marginalized by the coalition Barack Obama amassed on his way to becoming this nation's 44th chief executive.

What has emerged from the voting that made Obama this nation’s first black president is a new American majority. While Obama got the backing of just 43 percent of white voters, His largest percentages of support came from blacks, Hispanics and young whites.

Obama won support from 95 percent of black voters, 66 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of whites, aged 18 to 29. He took most of the white vote in the East, but lost it to Republican John McCain in every other section of the nation, according to the Pew Research Center.

No Democratic president has won a majority of white votes since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide victory over Republican Barry Goldwater, but Obama won a smaller share of that vote than any Democrat elected to the White House since then.

McCain took 55 percent of the white vote, topping Obama by 12 points. When Jimmy Carter won the White House in 1976, he lost the white vote to Gerald Ford by 6 points. In his 1992 victory over George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton lost the white vote by just 2 points. Four years later, Clinton won re-election while losing the white vote by 3 percentage points to Sen. Bob Dole.

While Obama won the backing of urban whites by 4 points, suburban and rural whites voted for McCain by much larger margins. The roots of Obama's loss of the white vote - and of the white majority's marginalization - can be found in the South, where whites overwhelmingly rejected his candidacy.

"White Southern conservatives have been isolated by this election," said David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Obama lost the white vote in each of the 11 states of the former Confederacy. He took less than 15 percent of that vote in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and in Arkansas, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia he got less than 35 percent.

He did a lot better - still without winning a majority of the white vote - in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, former Confederate states where he won overall.

The significance of this seems to have escaped the notice of analysts viewing this election through the old template of Democratic and Republican Party politics. Obama's victory has reshaped this nation's political landscape.

The Republican Party, comatose and with little chance of resuscitation, comprises a shrinking portion of this nation's white majority. Its Southern base, recruited into the GOP by Richard Nixon's cynical embrace of a "Southern strategy" aimed at exploiting the region's racial fears and bigotry, has become a political albatross.

But Obama's win is also a warning shot for Democrats.

In the past, the Democratic Party has been much more in sync with organized labor and liberal interest groups than with the millions of new black, Hispanic and young voters who backed Obama on Election Day. It would be a mistake for Democrats to assume these new voters will embrace their old ways of doing business.

Obama's coalition is the political party of the future. It won this election under the Democratic Party's banner, but there’s no guarantee it’ll remain there. What seems certain is that this coalition is born of a new political paradigm - one in which the power to elect a president is no longer firmly in the hands of this nation's white majority.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Change we can believe in"

Jarrett on Obama: He's a realist, not an idealist

By DeWayne Wickham

It isn’t often that Americans get a revealing insight into the decision-making style of a president before he takes office.

Usually what passes for such a preview comes from the bluster of a political campaign’s talking points, or the distant assessment of journalists who claim to possess a special understanding of the president-elect’s thinking.

Rarely do either of these sources tell us much about an incoming president that, upon close inspection, matches up well with his behavior when it comes to the exercise of power.

But it’s possible, in the wake of this most unusual of presidential election, that we’ve gained an understanding of President-elect Barack Obama that is a true predictor of the way he will wield the awesome power he’ll soon possess.

“I’m not sure people understand how pragmatic he is,” Valerie Jarrett, the co-chair of Obama’s transition team told me Sunday. “He’s a pragmatist. He really wants to get things done…He won’t just stake out a position” and cling to.

Jarrett, a longtime friend and confidant of Obama and his wife, Michelle, is no sedan-chair carrier. She’s got her own impressive resume – which includes degrees from Stanford and the University of Michigan Law School, plus a long list of powerful jobs and important appointments in Illinois, where politics is a blood sport. When she talks about the president-elect, Jarrett speaks with the self-confidence of a political insider, not the pandering voice of someone jockeying for a West Wing office.

And if you pay close attention, what she told me and other members of The Trotter Group, an organization of black columnists and commentators, shortly after she made a national television appearance on “Meet the Press,” is quite revealing.

It’s a mistake, she said, to talk about Obama in terms of the left or right. He plans to change the political paradigm. What does that mean? Jarrett said Obama is a realist, not just an idealist, as many of his critics claim.

He won’t be a tool of liberals, or an easy target for conservatives. He’ll try to get done that which he thinks is “doable” and can “change the lives of the American people,” said Jarrett. Proof of this can be found in Obama’s approach to the nation’s daunting economic problems.

Before holding his first post-election press conference last week to let the nation know that he is focusing on this crisis as he prepares to assume to presidency in January, Obama pulled together a politically eclectic group of economic advisers that included the chief executive of Google, Michigan’s governor, Los Angeles’ mayor, two former treasury secretaries and an ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Jarrett said Obama went into that meeting and others he had during his presidential campaign with an open mind – and a willingness to listen to what people had to say before making a decision. She admits there occasionally were “great discussions with differences of opinion.” But there was no public backbiting and no sniping leaks to the press – which Jarrett credits to Obama’s leadership.

That kind of decision-making in his White House will help Obama retain the moral authority that many people believe America regained with his election.

What we know for certain is that presidents who lack inquisitiveness and surround themselves with sycophants become self-indulgent policy makers. That’s what happened to George W. Bush’s presidency, according to his former press secretary, Scott McClellan.

His was a surly presidency in which Bush never reflected, never reconsidered and never compromised on his positions, McClellan said in his book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.”

Jarrett gives us reason to hope that Obama’s presidency won’t get stuck in that bog.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who voted for Obama - and who didn't

Before the records of this historic election are trampled asunder by those who claim to know much more than they actually do about who voted for whom, here are some election FACTS that you need to know.

1. In winning the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama got 43 percent of the white vote; 95 percent of the black vote and 64 percent of the Hispanic vote.

2. Despite all of the hype about how energized young people were by Obama's candidacy, people 18 to 29 accounted for just 18 percent of those who voted in the 2008 general election. That's an increase of just one percent over their level of participation in the 2004 presidential election vote.

3. Sixty-four percent of the voters in the 2008 presidential election were age 40 or older.

4. Fourteen percent of white Democrats voted for Republican John McCain, while only eight percent of white Republicans voted for Democrat Barack Obama.

5. More white Independents (49 percent) voted for McCain than voted for Obama (47 percent).

6. Women of every race and ethnic group voted for Obama in a higher percentage than men in their group.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

A future better than our past

By DeWayne Wickham

How did America get to this point?

Some 220 years ago, it adopted a Constitution that counted blacks as just three-fifths of a person. President Theodore Roosevelt was widely condemned 113 years later for having a black man dine with him in the White House. And now, the country has voted, giving a black family a 4-year lease for that great edifice at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

How is it that only 43 years after Congress struggled to enact legislation giving federal protection to the voting rights of blacks that Barack Obama — a black man — could be elected president of this majority-white nation?

Pundits and historians will, no doubt, dissect Obama's winning campaign strategy and Republican John McCain's failed candidacy in search of answers to the key questions, but they will likely be looking in the wrong places.

The answers lie within the discovery that voters made about the campaign of Sen. Obama.

To be sure, Obama ran a brilliant campaign. He was masterful in his use of new media — text messages, blogs and YouTube's free video-sharing — to raise a massive amount of money and bring millions of new voters into the political process. And his message of change — coming as it did from a 47-year-old first-term senator who is the son a black man and a white woman — trumped the change message of McCain, who looked and sounded very much like the linear successor to President Bush.

More than anything else, the thing that lifted Obama into the Oval Office was his ability to convince sizeable chunks of voters that he could give them something they desperately wanted — something they yearned for above all.

Whites who voted for Obama want their country back. They still recall Florida in 2000, when a botched vote count put the outcome of the presidential election in the hands of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, which promptly gave Bush the keys to the White House.

Their country was taken from them by the deception of the neo-cons who took this nation to war in Iraq, by the overreach of the USA Patriot Act, and by the greed of the Wall Street robber barons whose actions gutted the stock portfolios and retirement accounts of millions of Americans — and threatened to topple the world's financial system.

Of course, blacks, too, were hurt by these things, but the long history of their disenfranchisement left them with a more deeply rooted need. They wanted a radical break from the past. They wanted, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, a future that "ain't what it used to be" — a future in which being judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, is more than an empty civil-rights catchphrase.

Obama's White House campaign gave blacks reason to believe that that future could be now. It gave them hope that Jim Crow Jr. — the kinder, gentler form of racism that replaced Jim Crow after the victories of the civil rights-era — is in full retreat.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," the president-elect said in his victory speech Tuesday.

In creating a winning coalition, the blacks and whites who voted for Obama arrived at the same American crossroad from decidedly different directions. And when they got there, they embraced the vision of a man whose promise of change offered them that which McCain didn't — a nation that is far better than its past.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It'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.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.
It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; 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 this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is 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; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.