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It was the collective breath we’d been waiting for to exhale for the past 22 months. Finally it’s over. He’s won. It’s the day our parents, our grandparents, all of us, thought we’d never live to see: An African American man has become president of the United States. Now when we tell our children, “You can be anything,” it won’t have the hollow ring of an empty promise.

When Obama made his breathtaking speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, he showed us the possibility of change. When he announced his candidacy for president early last year, it seemed like an impossible dream. And that’s how it remained for months. Obama taking one remarkable, well-placed step after another and the whole time all of us waited for the other shoe to drop. What would go wrong? How were his opponents going to try to take him down? When could it possibly happen? Our dreams have so often been dashed, why would now be any different?

But this was different. Obama, with his unflappable calm and mighty intellect, ignited a passion in all of us that had little old women on walkers hobbling to the polling stations determined to vote. And men who’d long ago given up on politics, filled out ballots with pride. He called for change, and he changed something in us all.

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