When the Obama campaign started about a year ago, our critics said it would be impossible to sustain. They said he was too inexperienced to be president. They said our competitors were first in line; that they’ve been around longer; that we should wait our turn.

Today, on the day of the campaign’s defining test, we look back on the ground we have covered and the difficulties we have overcome. We gaze back into the distance and hear the chorus of critics who have challenged us. And today, with our votes, we answer with three words that were hidden within each of us in the crowd that cold day long ago in Springfield, Illinois, that inspired us in Iowa and that roared forth from hundreds of thousands in South Carolina:

“Yes, we can.”

Today, we say yes not just to the weight of experience, but also to the unencumbered force of correct judgment. In the past seven years, we have born witness to a president whose stubbornness and arrogance has stolen away thousands of our family members and our friends to fight thousands of miles away. We now know this fight is a distraction from our true enemies. Some senators were naively swayed by President Bush’s misleading claims — claims that may have been dispelled had they taken the time to weigh the considerable evidence given to them. Yet, in a time when it was not popular to do so, Sen. Obama had the foresight to act rightly. His voice was a clarion call to reason amid the guttural screams for war.

Today, we say yes not to conventional wisdom but to true wisdom. For too long in our politics there have been those who have tried to cleave our nation in two. For their own gain, they have tried to make us forget what binds us together in favor of what will push us apart. They forget our country has already experienced the anguish that comes with being torn in two. But more importantly, they forget we stitched our nation, broken under civil war, back together with democracy and liberty, creating a union more beautiful and whole than either of its parts. Sen. Obama understands our nation’s history and the flaws and triumphs that have defined our national identity. As such, he is marked not by politics as usual but by new and unusual politics. He wants to hear from every angle, because he sees America is at its best when its people can discuss, debate and then decide.

Today, we say yes not to privilege for some but to liberty and justice for all. Instead of settling for common success after graduating from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, the senator charted himself a path to places far beyond the purview of that simple, though elite, life. He became a community organizer in Chicago at a time when the fabric of that city frayed at its edges. As a senator in the Illinois legislature, he was a champion of historically marginalized groups. And when Obama entered the United States Senate, he worked across party lines to reform a congressional ethics system that had made the voices of rich corporations louder than the voices of a nation. Throughout his life, Sen. Obama has put the betterment of others in front of his own personal profit.

The time has come for us to chart our own course through the wilderness of our future. For too long, we have depended on those who have come before to lead us to what they called the heights of the Promised Land. Today, we instead find ourselves on the lip of the deepest valley we have ever seen. But we have not slipped down into the darkness.

In the unlikely story of our nation, the only true dynasty has been a family that is known by one history, tied to one land, and bound by one name — and that name is America. My friends, we are all scions of that long, glorious family. And after the years have worn at the resolve of those who have come before, today we are called to clear the way for those who will come long after.

Today, we vote for Barack Obama.