After 17 months and 56 primaries and caucuses, and after an unprecedented 35 million people cast their votes during the nominating process, Sen. Barack Obama became the first African American who could claim the nomination of one of the major parties for the highest office in the land.

On this editorial page six months ago we wrote:

“Hope. Change. Unity. Those three simple words and the profound message they represent are like lightning that has lit a political prairie fire across the country. And it’s appropriate that the messengers who have ignited a nation are a son of the prairie state of Illinois, Sen. Barack Obama, and the heartland voters of Iowa. Suddenly, after Iowa, a whole new dynamic has transformed the presidential campaign, and perhaps the nation.”

Inspiring millions of people to want to get involved in the politics of making this country better – “a more perfect union” – requires substance as well as communication skills. The junior senator from the Land of Lincoln has articulated the kind of change that millions want to be a part of making in this soon-to-be post-Bush era.

This victory has given millions here and around the world cause to celebrate. All the best about the U.S. is being seen by millions around the world. All the worst, the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sexism, discrimination, and even war-mongering, has received a big repudiation.

The victory for change happened because millions of people rejected the divisiveness and fear that the ultra-right has used to maintain its grip on our country for more than 30 years.

The historic nature of Obama’s victory and the deep-seated desire for change propelling millions to the polls this year were not lost on John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. He devoted an entire speech earlier that night to trying to paint himself as an agent of a “better” kind of change. As the days march on, McCain will be exposed for what he represents — an unacceptable third term for President Bush.