This is our time to turn the page: Obama
Barack Obama staked his claim to be the first black US presidential nominee in history and pledged to America “this is our time”, as he urged Democrats to rally to his side.
“Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States,” he told 17,000 delirious supporters packed into a victory rally at a stadium here on Tuesday (US time).
“America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past,” the Illinois senator vowed in a stirring speech, after securing the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the party’s nomination.
“Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love,” he said as the crowd roared its approval, while an estimated 15,000 more watched from outside the stadium.
“The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.”
But he vowed that despite the difficulties ahead: “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless.
“This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.”
At the end of the gruelling 17-month primary campaign, the longest and most expensive ever, Obama, 46, was effusive in his praise for his defeated rival, former first lady Hillary Clinton saying she, too, had made history.
“She’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight,” he said.
Despite their bitter differences in past months, Obama paid tribute to Hillary’s “unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be”.
But he minced no words about his Republican adversary Senator John McCain, who had earlier officially launched the general election campaign by dismissing the Democrat’s clarion call of hope and change.
“It is not change when John McCain decided to stand with (US President) George Bush ninety-five per cent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year,” Obama said, in the same sports arena which will host the Republican convention in September.
“It’s not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians,” Obama said in his point-by-point attack on the senator.
“John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy... he’d understand the kind of change that people are looking for.”
He also slammed McCain over his policy in the Iraq war, claiming once again that the Arizona senator wanted to keep US troops there for a century.
“I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what’s not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years.
“We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in — but start leaving we must.”