A tale of two unique U.S. presidential candidates has ended, and one of them, Barack Obama, will inherit, along with the White House, what has been called the most dangerous of times.

Against that general backdrop, it should be noted that we also face the best of times in terms of the positive changes that could take place in America and the world. And, truth be told, we stand before the worst of times because of global economic uncertainties that confuse and surprise even the most sophisticated and trusted gurus on these matters. Further, it is a fact that we have penetrated deeper into the age of wisdom, with more access to information and greater potential at our fingertips through technology, science and imagination than ever before. Yet, sadly, we simultaneously remain in the age of foolishness, in which we allow, ignore or insufficiently address problems that threaten our very civilization and values, from global climate change to terrorism to human trafficking to nuclear proliferation. Along with those issues, we must deal with terribly volatile tensions in multiple parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Koreas, Pakistan and beyond.

Given such circumstances, why would anyone desire and seek the presidency of the United States? Well, we should be thankful that qualified people do, for without leadership, of the visionary, strategic, proactive and multilateral kind, we surely would be lost. President-elect Obama clearly has the intellect and the savvy to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. In areas where he lacks experience or knowledge, he has the good sense to appoint people with the necessary skills. My hope is that he will select at least some of them with bipartisanship as his guide.

That said, what is most important for us to remember at this moment is that Obama has been elected to serve as the president of all Americans. It is time to set aside the partisanship, rancor and nastiness of the campaign and join together in a manner that will give the new administration every opportunity to succeed. America has spent not just a long campaign but too much of the past few decades recklessly divided. If we have indeed entered the most dangerous of times, we cannot afford to allow such counterproductive sentiments to linger.

I am allowing my thoughts to drift back to the spring of 2007, when the race for the presidency was still new and the world appeared tumultuous but not as daunting as is now the case. Could Americans, understanding their declining relative place in the world, noting the rise of other powers and tallying the increasingly hostile perceptions of this country, bring the right candidates to the forefront? I sensed that the answer was yes and, in contrast with the inclination of many polls, that agents of change with their fingers on the future could succeed.

Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, I suggested, should logically be part of a Democratic dream team. I selected U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona to bear the banner for the Republican version. Then, in May of this year, more than 1,200 of my readers shared their presidential/vice-presidential pairing preferences, and many of them also defied polls. Some believed that Obama had the momentum to head the Democratic ticket, and that U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware should serve as his No. 2. On the Republican side, some readers endorsed a McCain-led ticket with a female governor or business leader at his side. They turned out to be right.

Now, however, all the speculation is over. Americans as a group have decided. The stage is Obama’s. A tremendous burden will fall to him, the most dangerous of times, but he will also receive an opportunity to ease the strains and make up for the mistakes that delivered us to this difficult period.

By summoning a renewed and expanded version of the audacity of hope that propelled his campaign, and with the assistance of all Americans, Obama can move us, this nation and our world forward.

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