Obama Wins Historic Victory

This story was written by Athena Y. Jiang, Harvard Crimson
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election tonight, sweeping past Republican candidate Senator John McCain on a wave of calls for change from voters across the country.Obamas wins in Ohio and New Mexico, announced by NBC News and CNN, made it virtually impossible for McCain to win the 270 votes needed for a majority in the Electoral College.In order to win, McCain would have to win every state west of the Mississippi River and either California, Oregon, or Washington, three west-coast states that have traditionally been solidly Democratic.Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, will be the nations first black president. A graduate of Harvard Law School, the first-term Illinois senators win capped off a meteoric rise in which he will ascend from the Illinois State Senate to the White House in less than five years.On his way to the Oval Office, Obama shattered fundraising records, defeated one-time Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, and convinced a country to focus on his message of change, not his relatively thin resume.Obamas victory over McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran from Arizona, also represents a transition between political epochs, from the generation defined by that war and its aftermath to a younger generation that largely escaped its scars.Speculation about Obamas political career began even before he graduated magna cum laude in 1991 from the Law School, where he made history as the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Despite suggestions from his professors that he apply for a federal court clerkship, by his second year Obama had already made clear his intention to pursue a career in grassroots organizing and civil rights litigation. Obama also later become a lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.Obamas rise has surprised many Washington insiders, but days before announcing that he would run for president, he had already called Law School professors to tell them that he had his sights set on the White House.Over the course of the campaign, Obama became one of Harvards favorite sons, stirring up excitement among student groups and faculty members alike. Professors who remembered Obama as a brilliant and unique student rallied behind him in droves, and other professors held fond memories of his wife Michelle, who graduated from the Law School three years before him.Obama tapped their support throughout his bid for the presidency for money, connections, and advice. A top-dollar fundraiser held at the Cambridge home of professor David B. Wilkins 77 in early 2007 not only reunited him with old classmates and Law School professors, but also allowed him to rub elbows with influential Massachusetts Democrats.By the end of the election cycle, Harvard academics had contributed over $200,000 to the Obama campaign in direct donations, and two of Harvards most distinguished law professorsLaurence H. Tribe 62 and Cass R. Sunstein 75, Obamas erstwhile colleague at the University of Chicagoemerged as staunch backers of his presidential campaign.Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.
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