NEW YORK - Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, was elected United States 44th President on Tuesday, breaking the ultimate racial barrier to become the first African-American to claim the country's highest office and he immediately pledged to promote the cause of peace. Obama will be sworn in on January 20, 2009. He will succeed President George W Bush, who leaves the country in deep economic crisis and which is also engaged in fighting two wars abroad-Afghanistan and Iraq. "Change has come to America," he told to a huge crowd of jubilant supporters of all colours and creed in Chicago, his home base. In his televised victory speech, the President-elect also addressed himself to people beyond US borders and in the "forgotten corners of our world", saying, "our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand." "To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope," he added. A nation that was founded by slave owners and seared by civil war and generations of racial strife delivered a smashing electoral college victory to the 47-year-old first-term Senator from Illinois, who forged a broad, multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition. His victory was a leap in the march towards equality: When Obama was born, people with his skin colour could not even vote in parts of US, and many were killed for trying. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," Obama told tens and thousands of his supporters. Obama won in every state his party carried four years ago, including Pennsylvania, which McCain had worked vigorously to pry from the Democratic column. Obama also made significant inroads into Republican turf, carrying Ohio and Virginia, the latter voting Democratic for the first time in more than 40 years. He also won the swing states of New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico, which backed President Bush in 2004. Moments later, the Obama campaign announced that McCain had called the President-elect to concede. Voters also handed Obama a fortified congressional majority, as Democrats picked up several seats in the Senate and in the House. The party knocked off at least two GOP incumbents, including North Carolina Sen Elizabeth Dole. McCain, burdened by his party's toxic image, prevailed in a band of states that comprise a shrinking Republican base, mainly in the South, the plains and parts of the interior West. In winning the White House, Obama to a large degree remade the electorate: About one in 10 of those casting ballots on Tuesday were doing so for the first time. Though that number was about the same as four years ago, most of the newcomers were under age 30, about a fifth were black and a fifth were Latino. That was greater than their share of the overall population, and those groups voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Overall, he won large majorities of women, black and Latino voters. Although he lost among white voters, Obama narrowed the margin significantly from 2004. For most voters, the sagging economy was the topmost concern-a dynamic that played strongly to the Democrat's favour. Six in 10 voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the nation, according to exit polls - far more than cited energy, Iraq, terrorism or health care. "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America," Obama told the 125,000-plus crowd at Grant Park in Chicago. Obama praised McCain for the campaign he ran, saying his opponent waged a tough campaign and "fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. ...We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader." After thanking his running mate, Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, his family and his campaign staff, Obama said: 'But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you." Obama said the challenges facing the nation are great and may not be resolved "in one year or even in one term. ... (But) I promise you, we as a people will get there". "This is our time," Obama said in closing "to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can". Before Obama spoke, McCain, his Republican rival, conceded defeat. McCain told a crowd of supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, that "American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly". He congratulated Obama for his victory which is "a great thing" for himself and the country. "Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country," McCain said. Flanked by wife Cindy and running-mate Sarah Palin, McCain spoke to supporters outside the Arizona Hotel in Phoenix, shortly after election results showed that he lost by a big margin. "It's natural tonight to feel some disappointment. Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours," he told his supporters. He voiced respect for Obama for his success "in a contest as long and as difficult as this campaign has been". "His success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance," Mcain added. He said Obama managed to inspire the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American President. This was something 'I deeply admire and commend him for achieving', McCain added. Agencies add: US President George W Bush who has been in control through eight turbulent years also congratulated Obama. "Mr President-elect, congratulations to you," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino quoted the president as saying in a phone call to Obama. "What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters. Laura and I called to congratulate you and your good bride." With record numbers of Americans casting ballots in Tuesday's election, Obama won more votes than any candidate in US history, reports and records of the US National Archives show, becoming the first black American to lead the United States. He also claimed a higher percentage of the overall vote than any Democrat since Lyndon B Johnson in 1964, vote tallies reveal. At 1:30 pm (1830 GMT) Wednesday, with results given in 49 states and the District of Columbia, Obama had 349 electoral votes compared with 163 for Republican John McCain He was declared the winner late Tuesday after securing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. US networks said Obama won the popular vote by a six-point margin of 52 to 46 per cent, earning a higher percentage of the overall vote than any Democrat since Johnson in 1964 (61.1 per cent). The 47-year-old first term senator from Illinois earned 63.25 million votes nationwide, while McCain, a Vietnam War hero and long-time Arizona senator, won 55.90 million, NBC, CBS and Fox News reported. Overall, more than 130 million people cast ballots, reported. US national archives show that to be the highest total number of voters ever in a US general election, and 63.25 million the largest total for any candidate. In the Senate, Democrats wrested control of five Republican seats including in the traditionally Republican state of Virginia, followed by New Hampshire, North Carolina and New Mexico, reaching a 56-seat majority in the 100-seat chamber. Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell clung on in Kentucky, meaning Democrats were unlikely to win the 60 seats they need in the 100-seat chamber needed to frustrate Republican obstruction tactics. Senate races in Alaska, Minnesota, Georgia and Oregon however were still too close to call. Democrats also won 20 seats in the House of Representatives, solidifying their majority to 251 against 171 of the Republicans. Six House races were still too close to call as of 1000 GMT.