A speech that left many speechless

As Barack Obama gave his first speech as president-elect this evening, offering a sweeping vision of shared service and sacrifice, Elisabeth Carlson, 26, of Ravenswood, found herself lost for words.

"I'm speechless," she said. "I wanted to cry. Honestly, it wasn't the best speech he ever gave, but I still thought it was great. He talked about what we need to do to move forward together."

Also left speechless was UIC student Kat LaCoste, who made her way to Grant Park for the Obama rally.

"Nobody can put into words what people are feeling right now," said LaCoste, 20. "I feel like his speech summed up everything that all the American people are hoping for."

Obama pledged to work with Sen. John McCain, despite their differences on economic matters, health care and a host of other issues.

"He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves," Obama said. "He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader."

Micah Esguerra, 20, a UIC student, appreciated that conciliatory tone.

"I liked the part where he said ... 'Those who disagree with me, i will listen to you'. It puts into words what his campaign has been doing. It showed his willingness to work with the opposition and listen to different people. It wasn't as much his win as the people's win."

Though laced with optimism, Obama's speech did not paint a rosy picture of the next four years.

"Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime," he said. "Two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century."

David Heineman, 26, praised Obama's willingness to face reality.

"He didn't shrink from challenges we all face. He's challenging us to meet him there," said Heineman, who traveled from Skokie to watch Obama's victory lap at Grant Park tonight.

Heineman's wife, Maryjoy, 26, was also moved.

"I feel like we're all going to come together like a family," she said.

Economic concerns struck a chord with Jacob Lustig, 21, a Columbia College student. He's worried about finding a job when he graduates next month.

"I feel like he definitely showed a willingness to reach across the aisle," said Lustig. "It wasn't just gloating."

Obama traced his path from unlikely contender to president-elect, lavishing praise on many of the Chicagoans who helped him make that journey, as well as a groundswell of thousands of supporters who gave, often in small amounts, to his campaign.

"I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to," he said. "It belongs to you."