An Improvement to McCain’s Concession Speech

I was extremely impressed with the graciousness of McCain’s concession speech last night as well as Obama’s victory speech. However, part of McCain’s speech struck me initially as slightly insensitive. Here are some excerpts:

(Relating to our treatment of African American citizens) We have “come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation…” “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 … Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

When I first heard this, it sounded a lot like “now that a black person is president, we can finally say that racism and bigotry is no longer present in America”. In reading the transcript of the speech, I can see that this is not what he said, nor what he intended. However, as a writer, I take misinterpretation of my words as a sign that I should reevaluate them and strive to improve their clarity. In that vein, I think he could’ve improved his message here by saying something like this:

“Let today represent how far we have come from the darkness in our past. Although we have not declared victory over bigotry, today the people of our country and the world can view the election of an African American citizen to the office of the president of the United States as a glowing symbol of hope. A symbol of hope for a future when all men and women are treated equally, not only in the eyes of the law, but in the hearts and actions of our citizens."

Minorities of all types in this country still face hardship, and although I believe President Obama will make major strides forward to promote equality, discrimination still exists and will continue to exist in four years, in eight years, and probably even 80 years. We’ve made great progress from the days of yore, but we still have far to go, so let us not become complacent in our efforts to treat each other with the respect and consideration that we all deserve.

In any case, McCain delivered a very respectful and gracious speech, and I applaud him for his efforts to support our new president-elect and pave a smooth path to bipartisan cooperation under the Obama administration. Kudos to both candidates yesterday for their exemplary behavior at the end of this long and bitter campaign.

Reference: Full transcript of John McCain’s concession speech.

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