an American flag background waving in the wind

An analysis of historic Presidential concession speeches that reveal their true brand

Presidential election 2020 is a real nail-biter.

As we near the end of the race, I have been looking back at some memorable concession speeches in the past elections.

Concession speech is one of the most challenging speeches one could give. Not only do you have to publicly admit your loss, you are addressing audience around the world who are feeling extremely emotional and uncertain. Your integrity is truly tested.

One of the most memorable is Hillary Clinton. She showed her grace, dignity, honor, class… that’s presidential. That’s leadership.

 

2016 Hilary Clinton

I still remember vividly her bright, beaming smile, as she walked up to the stage followed by Bill Clinton, both wearing purple – the united colors of blue and red to symbolize “unity.”

Many in America, if not the world, were hopeful that this country would finally break that high, hard, glass ceiling. Tens of millions of Americans invested their hopes and dreams, yet they were turned to despair over night. Even then, my-5-year old daughter and her classmates were talking about their disappointment and disbelief in the loss of “girl power.”

Whilst the world was in despair, Hillary focused her message on hope, opportunity, and belief.

Let’s look at some of the excerpts from her concession speech:

“Our campaign was never about one person or even one election, it was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted.”

“To the young people in particular, I hope you will hear this. I have spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks. Sometimes, really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is- it is worth it.”

“To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

She called her supporters to give Donald Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead”.

Hillary’s bright smile and poise never left the podium. Her message never left people’s minds. Her speech healed many bruised hearts.

The power of her speech not only came from her spoken words, but from her demeanor.

 

There is a study by Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA.

His 7-38-55 Communication model says that only 7% of communication takes place through the words we use, while 38% takes place through tone and voice and the remaining 55% of communication takes place through the body language we use.

In short, our non-verbal messages far outweigh verbal messages.

But this doesn’t mean that verbal messages are not important. It’s quite contrary. You need to strategically choose your language to convey your message.

When you’ve planned your speech, it relies in the delivery and non-verbal messages to give it the final impact it needs.

You may not be addressing to the entire country or the world, but as leaders, it’s important that we understand what we’re communicating verbally AND non-verbally.

That’s where Hillary truly excelled in her concession speech.

 

2008 John McCain

John McCain was another one who showed high level of integrity.

This was one of the most historic elections, in that Barack Obama became the first African American president of the United States of America.

From the opening of his concession speech, McCain commended his opponent, Barack Obama for his ability and perseverance, and showed tremendous respect and admiration.

His audience booed him, yet he seized the booing by focusing on emphasizing the common belief that he shared with Obama; that America is the land of opportunities. He called for unity and collaboration beyond differences, and full-hearted support for the newly elected president.

Let’s look at some of the language he used:

“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 goodwill 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.”

McCain also showed his humanity by paying respect to Obama’s late grandmother who raised him to be a “good man”.

As a proud citizen of the United States of America, McCain urged all Americans to find the way to bridge our differences, whatever our difference is. And concluded his speech with this powerful message:

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

As a former US Navy officer and a patriotic public servant, John McCain’s humanity shined. He was sincere and authentic.

As an emerging speaker, you may want to apply some of these techniques to come across as a powerful speaker like these Presidential candidates.

You can learn a lot from studying your idol. However, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is, you are not your idol. You’ll never be like him/her. If you try to copy the way he talks, the way he moves, the way he dresses, you are no longer authentic.

The good news is, you will be a better speaker when you are authentically you!

 

Do you want to create an image you think your audience will approve of, or will you risk presenting yourself as you a natural and authentic leader?

Patriotism was John McCain’s brand.

What’s your authentic personal brand….?

Book a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call with me and let’s see how it’s coming through in your speech.

Leave a Comment