DENVER | In a historic changing of the guard, Democrats formally anointed Sen. Barack Obama as America’s first black major-party nominee for president Wednesday night and bade farewell to the party’s two-decade domination by Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job,” Mr. Clinton told a thunderous, cheering crowd in a prime-time speech carefully scripted to end the rift between the two camps. “Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.”
The former president said Mr. Obama “hit it out of the park” with his first presidential decision of choosing Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware for a running mate, and said the Obama-Biden ticket combines “experience and wisdom” along with “understanding, insight and good instincts.”
Mr. Biden, who is taking his shot at the White House after serving 35 years at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, accepted his vice-presidential nomination by paying tribute to the “common story” of modest roots that he and Mr. Obama shared growing up.
Laying the groundwork for an expected central theme in Mr. Obama’s speech Thursday night, Mr. Biden declared: “The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier — they require a wise leader. A leader who can deliver change. The change everybody knows we need. Barack Obama will deliver that change.”
Mr. Obama arrived in Denver after days of campaigning, ready to accept his nomination with a speech Thursday night that is 45 years to the day that civil rights leader Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” address.
After Mr. Biden’s speech, Mr. Obama made a surprise visit on stage and paid tribute to the Clintons.
“President Clinton reminded us of what it’s like when you have a president who actually puts people first,” Mr. Obama said, in highlighting the former president’s address. He also told thrilled delegates that he was “so proud to have Joe Biden and Jill Biden and Beau Biden and Mama Biden and the whole Biden family with me on this journey to take America back.”
The Illinois Democrat learned in his hotel room earlier that the delegates had formally certified his nomination with a roll call cut short in a unifying move by his former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“In the spirit of unity with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country … let’s declare together in one voice right here and right now that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president,” Mrs. Clinton said in honor of her one-time rival as some delegates wiped away tears and cheered wildly.
At 6:52 p.m. EDT, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the convention’s permanent chairman, declared “with great pride” that Mr. Obama would be the Democratic nominee.
“I have never seen a moment like this,” Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama said as Mr. Obama waited one more night to formally accept the nomination.
“I have never seen a sense of urgency like this,” he said. “In my 40 years, I have never seen my country as energized as this. As our next president has said, from the places where people hurt to the places where people dream, ‘Our time is now.’”
The official tally of delegate votes by all 55 states and territories is a quadrennial event, but this year it provided unusual drama. Some of the first lady’s supporters had threatened to use the event as a protest and it took some contentious negotiations between the two camps to secure a roll call that would let Mrs. Clinton’s backers celebrate her accomplishments one final time.
In the end, though, the vast majority of Democratic delegates stood behind their nominee as Mrs. Clinton had exhorted them a night earlier.