Gone from four years ago was the overwhelming, almost awesome, sense of history, the tears of older African-Americans like Jesse Jackson. Gone also was the sense of an adventure about to begin.
When the president addressed his delirious supporters early on Wednesday morning in Chicago, it was a more seasoned Barack Obama who celebrated this victory, one who openly acknowledged "all the hardship we've been through" and "all the frustrations of Washington." With him on stage, the Obama daughters were notably taller, becoming as their proud father noted, "strong, smart, beautiful young women." Obama's hair was grayer. And the venue was different, with the tens of thousands gathered under the stars in Grant Park giving way to a smaller crowd inside McCormick Place.
But the president's victory speech was every bit as important in signaling where the victor wants to go and every bit as aspirational as the one he delivered in 2008, while reflecting a newfound maturity that comes from having endured a rough first term. This was a more mature Obama than the president-elect who boasted, "Change has come to America" and led the crowd in a refrain of "Yes, we can!" Few paid much attention then to his warning: "There will be setbacks and false starts" or "We may not get there in one year or even one term." They were, instead, swept up in his declaration that "a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."