Like the final scene from a Rocky movie where the two slogging combatants stand battered and exhausted as one teeters toward the canvas, the 2008 presidential election has finally and mercifully drawn to a close. Congratulations are in order to Democrat Barack Obama for his historic achievement.

A relatively fresh presence on the national scene, Obama is an inspiring and effective communicator with a compelling personal story who obviously represents the change this campaign season seemed to seek. He also is emblematic of the promise and opportunity this republic offers to all its citizens and the world.

We wish our new president the best in leading this nation for at least the next four years through the morass of immense challenges it faces domestically and abroad. We pray he surrounds himself with wise and bipartisan counsel, and wields a fair and thoughtful leadership that brings this nation together and turns around the paralyzing partisanship that has marked the last eight years. To do that, it is important that we all – McCain and Obama supporters alike – pull together to honor the will of the people and move this nation forward.

It will be interesting to watch from which plane Obama will lead. Rated the fourth most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in just his four-year tenure in the Senate, he ran true to that record in the Democratic primaries. He moved to the center in the general election, adopting traditional conservative positions relative to tax cuts, fiscal discipline, etc. Moreover, a fawning mainstream media seemed more interested in discussing the wardrobe of female vice-presidential candidates than pressing Obama to reconcile his campaign positions with his short legislative record.

Nonetheless, while the American electorate decidedly handed a presidential election victory to a traditional liberal, other results would indicate that the electorate is still firmly in the center. For instance, voters in several states, including even California, voted in favor of defining marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Obama’s appeal was his messianic-style charisma but just how he will govern is unknown. One thing is for certain, after Jan. 20, he won’t be able to retain his current status of seemingly being all things to all people. If he goes too far left, he will disappoint the majority of the U.S. electorate; if he goes more centrist, his far-left supporters, who already have publicly proclaimed that it is “payback time,” will revolt. Hillary Clinton is well aware of the ire of that latter segment.

Obama’s prodigious talents as an inspiring communicator, and hopefully a consensus builder, will be all important as he tries to bring back civil discourse to U.S. politics. And civil discourse is something sorely needed in American politics at this time. I hope people treat Obama with the respect due the office, a courtesy not much accorded George W. Bush, as sadly evidenced by the failed California proposition to name a sewer plant after him.

Regardless of your politics, Obama’s elevation to the most powerful position in the world is an achievement every American should be exceedingly proud of. When one considers that the Voting Rights Act, aimed at guaranteeing every American’s right to a vote, was just passed four decades ago, Obama’s victory is a testament to the greatness and the opportunity inherent in the U.S. system.

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama.
Joe Roybal