Change has come to America – that was the message from the next President of the United States.

Barack Obama appealed for unity and paid tribute to his Republican opponent Senator John McCain.

In his first words to the country since his election just an hour ago, the President-elect made a direct reference to the diversity of America – including gay Americans.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dreams of our founders are alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said.

“It’s the answer told by lines that stretch around schools and churches, in numbers this nation has never seen.

“By people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives. Because they believed that this time must be different. That their voices could be that difference.

“It is the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who send a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states – we are and always will be the United States of America.”

The President-elect won  states this evening that voted Republican in 2004, among them Virginia, Florida and Colorado.

Barack Obama took the election when he accumulated the required 271 electoral college votes after he won California and Washington state.

He is expected to win more than 300 overall.

Earlier he took Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that voted Republican in 2004, and swept up other states of electoral and historic significance.

President-elect Obama took New Mexico, next to his Republican rival Senator John McCain’s home state of Arizona, and Iowa, a state that is more than 95% white.

Veteran Senator Joe Biden will be the next Vice President.