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Graciousness in Defeat

The U.S. and international news sources are unanimously crediting John McCain with one of the most “gracious” concession speeches in memorable history.  It should stand as the textbook example of how a person concedes political defeat, regardless of the battle that has been waged.

As for the scattered booing in the audience that John McCain was compelled to quell during his speech, one should not be tempted to believe crass behavior by a few is indicative of an entire group or class of people.  When Hillary Clinton conceded her defeat in the Democratic primaries on June 7th, 2008, her speech was also punctuated by boos at the mention of her opponent’s name:

 The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our every, our passion, our strength, to help elect Barack Obama the next President of the United States [some people in the crowd are booing, most are cheering].    Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. [more assorted boos, mostly cheering]  Source

At Grant Park in Chicago the evening of November 4, 2008, Obama supporters respectfully listened to John McCain as he delivered his concession speech yet there was “significant booing” at McCain’s mention of Palin:

Senator McCain’s concession speech followed shortly after Obama was declared the victor.  The Grant Park crowd was deeply respectful to the senator.  The only time significant booing came from the crowd was when McCain spoke of Governor Palin.  Source 

No one group has cornered the market on crass behavior since every strata of society has its share of boors, the crude and the obnoxious.  Even little league games of sport, where winning or losing will not precipitate a national crisis, can bring out the ugliest tendencies of people too wrapped up in achieving victory at the expense of their dignity and character.

What needs to be remembered when viewing national elections is that it is really a celebration of the American ideals of freedom and choice.  I voted very early on Election Day and had the opportunity to speak with the Chief Judge overseeing our little precinct’s voting about the excitement of participating in a day such as this.  We spoke of our gratitude to be able to vote freely and the excitement of watching principles of democracy at work.  Regardless of who is running, I get majorly charged up when the country exercises their right to vote…a right many people in this world do not have and which we should never take for granted.  Every time we, as a nation, vote for a president, it is an awesome, amazing celebration of freedom and who we are as Americans.

There is a saying I learned from my retired military father and father-in-law when it is difficult to respect the man in the uniform.  “If you can’t salute the man, salute the stripes”, referring to the respect accorded to an officer of higher rank even if he is a jerk of profound proportions.  People unhappy with Barack Obama’s winning the election will need to learn to “salute the stripes” if for no other reason than to the respect the office of President he has won by virtue of our unique, wonderful, time-honored system of campaigning and voting. 

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.

My friends, we have.. we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.



To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring 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 is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.  I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.  America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.  Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.  Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought as hard as we could. And though we feel short, the failure is mine, not yours.


MCCAIN: I am so…


MCCAIN: I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.


MCCAIN: The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I’m especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother … my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate’s family than on the candidate, and that’s been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen … one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength … her husband Todd and their five beautiful children … for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.  We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.

To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.

I don’t know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I’ll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.


Please. Please.

I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.


MCCAIN: Tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.  We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

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  • Alexis July 13, 2009, 6:50 pm

    I too admired his graceful, polite concession speech. He was truely a gentleman. (And no, I didn’t vote for him. But he continues to have my respect and admiration.)