NEW YORK — It was a Donald Trump that many Americans had never seen.
Shortly after 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, just after he was anointed president-elect, Trump strode on stage to an adoring crowd, soaking in his surprising, pollster-defying victory.
Instead of lashing out, as he did countless times on the campaign trail, Trump praised his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, lauded the nation’s ethnic diversity, and promised to represent all people.
“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” Trump said. “I mean that very seriously. Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division . . . I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
Just minutes earlier, the crowd had been reprising a signature chant of the campaign targeting the Democratic nominee, “Lock her up!”
And Trump had, in recent weeks, even said he would appoint a special prosecutor and seek to put her in jail for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
But in the hours after Clinton’s concession, a different Trump showed up — at least for this moment.
He was conciliatory, soft-spoken, gracious. There was no mention of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, or of banning Muslims, or of mass deportations of illegal immigrants.
Instead, it was Trump who was victorious, capping one of the most improbable presidential runs in U.S. history.
Standing before a row of American flags, appearing in front of hundreds of people wearing Make America Great Again Hats, Trump smiled and waved, clapping along with the crowd. He was accompanied by his wife, Melania, a former model who was born in Slovenia and became a U.S. citizen in 2006.
Trump thanked many of his high-profile supporters, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He brought Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus onto the stage, declared him a “star,” and handed over the microphone for a few seconds.
Supporters hugged each other, waved Trump signs over their heads and erupted in cheers after the race was officially called. Trump was introduced by his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who told the crowd that “This is a historic night. The American people have spoken and the American people have elected their new champion.”
Trump, after promising the heal the nation and rebuild the economy, teased the audience that he would seek to serve “maybe even eight years,” a suggestion that he would run for reelection. He made grandiose promises, saying “every single American” will be able to prosper.
“We must,” he said, “reclaim our country’s destiny.”
It was a triumphal moment for the man who was raised in Queens, and whose father, the developer Fred Trump, had warned him about the difficulty of making it in Manhattan. Yet the son made his mark, built Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, and plotted his presidential bid there.
The crowd had waited for hours for Trump’s arrival.
At 1:30 a.m., a Fox News reporter said on the broadcast playing on a big screen that House Speaker Paul Ryan reached out to Trump. The crowd did not react. At 2 a.m., the crowd booed as they watched on television screens as Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said there would be no concession speech until all the votes were counted.
Carol Minor, 70, of Hemet, Calif., sat contentedly against a wall in the back of the ballroom. “I really felt in my heart that he was going to win,” she said.
Sajid Tarar, a Muslim man who spoke on behalf of Trump at the GOP convention. said he has been a nervous wreck lately, and had not slept for three days.
“There was no doubt in my mind this was an election against the system,” said Tarar, dressed in a suit and a bow tie.