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As proud African American, Rice calls Obama ‘inspirational’…

November 7, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Politics

( WASHINGTON (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday called President-elect Barack Obama “inspirational,” saying his election marked “an extraordinary step forward” for race relations.

Rice, the first black woman to serve as the nation’s top diplomat, told reporters she was filled with pride to see Obama elected America’s first African American president, even if they belong to opposing political parties.

“This was an exercise in American democracy of which Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably proud,” Rice told reporters as she prepared to travel to the Middle East.

She praised her fellow Republican John McCain, a 72-year-old white senator from Arizona, as “gracious” in his defeat to Obama, a 47-year-old Democrat and first-term senator from Illinois.

Rice also called McCain a “great patriot” for his days as a Navy pilot who was shot down and seriously wounded during the Vietnam war.

“I want to note that president-elect Obama was inspirational and I’m certain he will continue to be,” she said, vowing she and her State Department will do everything possible to ensure a “smooth transition” to an Obama administration which assumes power January 20.

“But one of the great things about representing this country is that it continues to surprise, it continues to renew itself, it continues to beat all odds and expectations,” Rice said.

“You just know that Americans are not going to be satisfied until they really do form that perfect union,” Rice said alluding to a phrase in the US constitution.

Closing on what she called a “personal note,” she said she was “especially proud” as an African American.

Obama’s election was “obviously an extraordinary step forward” on the nation’s “long journey” of overcoming the pain of the past and “making race not the factor in our lives,” Rice told reporters.

Nonetheless, “that work is not done,” she added.

In March, Rice said the United States is a remarkable country where a black woman like her could rise to a position first held by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner.

Rice spoke of hard-won progress when a reporter asked her about lessons learned since the start of the civil rights movement which was in the spotlight with the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

“You have to work hard every day to make the extraordinary words, the moving and inspirational words of our founding documents, a reality for all Americans,” she said.

Colin Powell, the first black person to become secretary of state, preceded Rice in the job.

During a visit to Hong Kong on Wednesday, an emotional Powell said “it’s a historic day for the United States of America. President-elect Obama is a president for all America.”

“The American people are responding with great emotion, and with great pride in our system, that we have seen this latest step in reconciliation with respect to our race relations,” Powell said.

“We have not completely reconciled within my society, within my country. But what Mr Obama represents is the best of America.”

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