It's hard to find the right words to describe my reaction to Barack Obama's election to the presidency. My 8-year-old son will never know what it's like not to have had a black president. I'm moved, proud, happier than I expected, and a little awestruck, but I'm not surprised. I think that I'm most pleased about that last bit.
I'm not surprised.
What a great feeling. What an incredible thing it is to see an American of African descent elected to that high office, and to not be surprised. Sen. Obama is young and untested in many ways, but on the other hand is so obviously gifted and intelligent. And besides, he ran an amazing campaign: he emerged as a candidate because of his ability to articulate the American idea in a new way, he defeated a powerful and well-funded political machine within his own party, and then showed himself to be calm, reasoned and unflappable right up to the general election. This 'morning after' feeling is all the more special for the sense that it was inevitable and right, rather than shocking.
I watched his speech this morning and it put tears in my eyes. It is the job of a leader to define reality...Max De Pree said that in one of his books on leadership. Sen. Obama defined a peculiarly American understanding of the world, and the reality he described is the same one my parents, both lifelong conservatives, raised me to believe in. I do believe that the American idea...the American political experiment...remains the best this world has to offer. It has been a while since someone has put that idea into such beautiful words on such a grand stage, but Sen. Obama wasn't alone.
In your celebration (or lamentation...you know who you are) of this election's outcome, don't allow the words of another very special American to be drowned out. Sen John McCain is a unique American political figure in his own right, and his concession speech was the best I've ever heard. If you supported Sen. Obama, make sure you hear what this man said about your candidate. If you were a McCain supporter, hear this call to remember that your political identity isn't primarily with your party, but with your country.
Both of these men ran honorable, hard campaigns, treating each other with respect and even grace at times. Both ended their campaigns in much the same way. Think about that. Two politicians, both after the same job, competing vigorously without losing their sense of honor and integrity. You know what?
I'm not surprised.
Here's most of John McCain's speech (I took out his comments to his campaign team):
My friends, 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 Sen. 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. Sen. 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.
Sen. 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.
Sen. 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—we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours. 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.
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 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 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 Sen. Obama and my old friend Sen. Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.
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.
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 Sen. Obama—whether they supported me or Sen. 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.