Change Has Come To America

12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Tuesday, our country made history -- electing Barack Obama President of the United States.

As I walked onto the field in Grant Park -- there were thousands of us around the podium -- a couple of reporters asked me what I thought of this. "Transformational," I said, "but, ask Ernest Green, right here, who was one of the original young people at Central High who broke segregation in the South. Ask him!"

It was a humbling and deeply moving experience to be there with Ernest and with former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, Ambassador Sam Brown and his wife, and so many others who have shared our passion to set this country on the right course. And to see the faces of all around us, representing all the diversity that Barack cited in his remarks. Some were jubilant, some were softly sobbing, some were joyous, a couple were watching others in the crowd. Cell phones and cameras were everywhere as people called friends and families to share the experience.

This was, truly, a transformational event.

After we left Grant Park, we found ourselves walking back to the hotel, a couple of miles north. Celebration was still in the air, along Michigan Avenue and Wacker: groups of young people high-fiving, and shouts of "Yes, we can." I was surrounded by electric smiles and energy... so alive.

There is no doubt -- the challenges confronting our nation are great. We are engaged in two wars abroad and facing an economic crisis at home. Our nation will require great sacrifices from all of us to overcome them. However, with these challenges come tremendous opportunities, and I know we will come together to carry this great nation forward. As Barack said:

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.

The sight of Barack, and Joe Biden, and their families on that platform, the warmth of the crowd, and its diversity will long linger as I reflect on how America has changed, and how we have changed ourselves. And as I looked at his expression, I could see Barack's seriousness of purpose, and his recognition that far greater challenges lie ahead. But I'm proud, and so hopeful for our country.