In the past two weeks we have seen history made.

The first African American accepted the nomination of a major party for President and the first Republican woman came from nowhere to take the Vice Presidential endorsement.

Her running mate John McCain topped off a week of firsts when he accepted the Presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention tonight, just days after his 72nd birthday.

The the oldest person ever to run for President, he avoided personal attacks on his 47-year-old Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama.

Instead he claimed Obama’s mantle of change for himself, and opened up about his experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us,” he told the convention in Minneapolis.

“We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other.

“We’re dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights.

“No country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn’t be an American worthy of the name if I didn’t honour Senator Obama and his supporters for their achievement.”

Senator McCain portrayed his running mate, Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, as a normal American mom. At 44, she only took gubernatorial office two years ago.

“She’s the mother of five children,” he said.

“She’s helped run a small business, worked with her hands and knows what it’s like to worry about mortgage payments and health care and the cost of gasoline and groceries.

“She knows where she comes from and she knows who she works for.

“She stands up for what’s right, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her to sit down. I’m very proud to have introduced our next Vice President to the country.”

Turning to his own qualifications, the Senator from Arizona, who lost out on the Republican nomination in 2000 to George W Bush, set out the party’s values:

“We believe in a strong defence, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who dispense justice impartially and don’t legislate from the bench. We believe in the values of families, neighbourhoods and communities.”

Senator McCain, who can appear prickly and distant, used his personal narrative to full effect:

“When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house. A Navy officer rolled down the window, and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour.

“I rarely saw my father again for four years. My grandfather came home from that same war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day.

“In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home with me. I hate war. It is terrible beyond imagination.

“I was blessed because I served in the company of heroes, and I witnessed a thousand acts of courage, compassion and love.

“On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin, I prepared for my 23rd mission over North Vietnam. I hadn’t any worry I wouldn’t come back safe and sound. I thought I was tougher than anyone.

“I was pretty independent then, too. I liked to bend a few rules, and pick a few fights for the fun of it. But I did it for my own pleasure; my own pride. I didn’t think there was a cause more important than me.

“Then I found myself falling toward the middle of a small lake in the city of Hanoi, with two broken arms, a broken leg, and an angry crowd waiting to greet me.

“I was dumped in a dark cell, and left to die. I didn’t feel so tough anymore. When they discovered my father was an admiral, they took me to a hospital.

“They couldn’t set my bones properly, so they just slapped a cast on me. When I didn’t get better, and was down to about a hundred pounds, they put me in a cell with two other Americans.

“I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even feed myself. They did it for me. I was beginning to learn the limits of my selfish independence. Those men saved my life.

“I was in solitary confinement when my captors offered to release me. I knew why. If I went home, they would use it as propaganda to demoralise my fellow prisoners.

“Our Code said we could only go home in the order of our capture, and there were men who had been shot down before me. I thought about it, though. I wasn’t in great shape, and I missed everything about America. But I turned it down.

“A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I’d been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it.

“But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.

“When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn’t know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me.

“Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honour to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people.

“I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.”

Senator McCain will now face Senator Obama in three head to head televised Presidential debates.

With neither candidate polling a significant lead, these set piece events could be crucial.

The Presidential election is on November 4th and the 44th President of the United States will take office on January 20th 2009.