- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

President Bush on Wednesday hailed Sen. Barack Obama’s election to the presidency as the fulfillment of the civil rights era and a high point in American history.

“No matter how they cast their vote, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,” Mr. Bush said to reporters during a brief statement in the Rose Garden.

“This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes, and four decades later see the dream fulfilled,” Mr. Bush said, in a reference to civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

The president said that the election of a black man to the nation’s highest office “showed a watching world the vitality of our democracy and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union.”

Mr. Obama’s triumph, Mr. Bush said, was “the triumph of the American story.”

“It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House,” Mr. Bush said.

“I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.”

The president also pledged a smooth transition into the next administration over the next 11 weeks.

“A long campaign has now ended, and we move forward as one nation,” he said.

Before leaving for the Middle East on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Mr. Obama “inspirational.”

As a black woman, she added, she is “especially proud because this is a country that´s been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wounds and making race not the factor in our lives. That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”

Mr. Bush said that during a “warm” conversation with Mr. Obama on Tuesday night, “I told the president-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House.”

It was the first time Mr. Bush appeared at a public event since last Thursday, as he tried to blunt the effect of his low popularity ratings on Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.

But Mr. Bush’s transition into a posture of support for Mr. Obama was immediate Tuesday night. The president called the president-elect to congratulate him on an “awesome” win less than 15 minutes after Mr. Obama was declared the winner.

In Mr. Bush’s last 76 days, the focus will be on the Nov. 15 economic summit with leaders from Group of 20 nations here in Washington, and on the Obama transition team’s involvement in the summit.