A little more electoral politics, which is off topic for this blog; apologies to regular readers. This stuff will end forthwith, but in addition to celebrating the Obama victory, I thought it might be worthwhile to acknowledge the beautiful, gracious concession speech from John McCain, trying to rediscover his inner mensch. In fact his speech, to my great surprise. moved me more than did Obama’s excellent victory speech.
If only McCain the Mensch had been in the campaign, instead of the weird snarky sleepy angry guy and his comedy-horrorshow of a running mate, if only they had not resorted to tactics of fear, distortion and last-minute juvenile pranks, perhaps his supporters might have been in more of a mood to hear these stirring words. (On the other hand, we might have been plunged into yet another nightmare tie-game. Until the actual nuts and bolts of voting are updated into something sensible, America is better off when its elections are decisive.)
So, while it’s impossible to be grateful to McCain for the disgraceful way he conducted himself during the campaign, we can at least temper our memories of him with gratitude for his gesture at the end:
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 visit — to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful 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 — (cheers, applause) — let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)
Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer in 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 — (applause) — 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. …
I would not — I would not be an — 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. (Cheers, applause.)
Tonight — 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 — 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.
If I have the ear of any McCain voters I urge them to take the senator’s words to heart.