As I’m assuming many of you were, I was glued to my television set throughoout the election, eyeing the count of electoral votes. When it was all over, I began anticipating the speeches in which Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would address their respective loss and win. I was also anticipating that each would address the American people and kindle in every person respect, hope and an expectation of changes to come in the next four years.
Obama’s speech succeeded in accomplishing those expectations. McCain’s, not so much.
“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other,” Obama said. “Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people.”
Obama’s speech addressed the nation as a whole, and what each of us can do to advance as one entity.
McCain’s concession speech was less than enthusiastic, with good reason: He was Obama’s defeated opponent. His speech primarily dwelled on the past — presenting this election’s outcome as a long-overdue IOU in American history.
“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,” McCain said. “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.”
Though his speech was commendable, it was not appropriate to a speech conceding a presidency. It seemed as if he were speaking at a racism-awareness campaign, not a presidential election.
“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,” he said.
The best way to honor this noteworthy moment in history is to acknowledge that we have finally reached a time when we can perceive Obama as just another president elected.
By focusing solely on the past, though, we are missing the reasons as to why we as Americans should support Obama.
We should support and respect Obama not merely because he is the first black president, but because he is our president-elect and we should do everything in our capacity to put aside our political affiliations and not view this as a racial situation.
As Americans, we should be concerned with uniting under Obama’s ideology of change and moving forward as a nation. McCain should have used his speech to help his fellow Republicans make a smoother transition in accepting their side’s loss and Obama’s win.
McCain did not make it a point to address the policies and benefits Obama will bring to office in these critical times. And he did not mention what aspects of Obama’s presidency he plans to support.
He simply stated the obvious: that he and Obama have their differences.
Race is only one thing that Obama represents. For McCain to disregard Obama’s other elements was to deny Obama the recognition he rightfully deserves as the president-elect.
McCain and his writers did a less-than-perfect job at his concession speech, an ideal time for him to advocate unity to the American people.
Despite this, I hope American citizens, regardless of race, political affiliation or other classifications, will hold steadfast to the belief that united we stand, divided we fall.
Rebekah Rosado is a junior double majoring in sociology and mass communications.