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Across the Country, 'It's Like a New Aura'

Some people celebrated by visiting the Lincoln Memorial. In silent clusters, they stood and read the words engraved on the wall that the slain president uttered at Gettysburg about the United States being "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Some scrawled messages on a placard erected at the foot of the memorial by the grass-roots organization Avaaz.

"Congratulations, President Obama -- Best regards from Poland," one person wrote.

"With time and patience God said change would come," scribbled Sheretta Mitchell, 26, visiting from North Carolina.

Michael Wickham, 50, of Baltimore, who described himself as a McCain supporter, said he embraced Obama's victory as a moment unequaled in his lifetime.

"I felt drawn here like it was a magnet," said Wickham, wearing a baseball cap with the inscription "What if." He found it difficult to control his emotions, he said, as he read Lincoln's words and mulled the meaning of Obama's victory.

"They should have the inaugural here," he said. "This should be the place."

Across the country, Democrats said they celebrated Tuesday's election because it marked the impending end for President Bush as well as the beginning for Obama.

At Duke University, four college students sat in a booth at a diner, sipping Diet Cokes and agreeing that they felt more patriotic than they could remember.

"I am just so happy that Bush will not be getting face time anymore," said Brian Tarpinian, 25. "I know with Barack there won't be the fear mongering. It's been constant war for almost my entire lifetime."

Next to Tarpinian, his friend Nick Davis's cellphone buzzed with such text messages from friends as "I love this country!" Davis has spent the past several months in the political mix for the first time in his life. He donated to Obama's campaign and followed every e-mail message Obama sent to supporters.

"They almost made it like a fun game of inclusion," Davis said. "I'm not exactly a shareholder, but I do have a stake. Under Bush I felt totally disenfranchised."

If there was one place that tested the collectiveness of Democratic optimism yesterday, it was the Bishop Street Mall in a Houston suburb long represented in Congress by Tom DeLay (R). The mall is a kind of miniature United Nations. Elderly, white mall walkers make their morning loops in bright white trainers, encircling kiosks staffed by immigrants from Pakistan, Guatemala, Israel, Iran, Mexico and India.

Yesterday, many were united by an admiration for Obama.

"It gives us hope that things are turning around," said Victor Vargas, 29, from Puerto Rico. "I'm not black, but I'm of color, so I think it's a victory for us all. Even if you're white, it's a victory. It shows how far we've come."

Contributing to this report were staff writers Krissah Williams Thompson, reporting from Durham, N.C.; Nick Miroff, from Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Robin Shulman, from Chicago; Keith B. Richburg, from New York; Ashley Surdin, from Los Angeles; Karl Vick, from Sugar Land, Tex.; and N.C. Aizenman, Lori Aratani, David Betancourt, Michael Alison Chandler, Pamela Constable, Ashley Halsey III, Rosalind S. Helderman, Chris L. Jenkins, Robert E. Pierre, Lena H. Sun, Christopher Twarowski, Theresa Vargas and Matt Zapotosky, from Washington.


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