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Ask Civics 101: What Is A Concession Speech?

Sara Plourde/NHPR

Today’s Ask Civics 101 question: What are concession speeches?

Read on, or listen to this short episode for the answer.

Do you have a question for the team? Click here to submit it.

Presidential campaigns have winners and they have losers. After months, sometimes years, of kissing babies, shaking hands, and begging for money, it must be a hard blow to have to go out graciously and admit defeat in a concession speech.

The concession speech is generally given on the night of the election when the race has been called by the news media. But in close races, the speech comes days - and even weeks - later.

Presidential concession speeches are generally the same. Senator George McGovern’s 1972 concession speech provides the basic structure:

1) The loser announces they have contacted and congratulated the winner.

"I have just sent the following telegram to President Nixon. 'Congratulations on your victory. I hope that in the next four years you will lead us to a time of peace abroad and justice at home. You have my full support in such efforts.'"

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2) They try to soothe their disappointed supporters.

"All of the satisfaction and joy that we have found in these past 22 months are not going to be washed away with the tears and regrets of one night."

3) They thank their campaign staff and supporters for all their hard work.

"The presidency belongs to someone else, but the glory of these devoted working friends and their dedication to the noble ideals of this country sustains us now and it will sustain our country."

4) They talk about the democratic process.

"I ask you not to despair of the political process of this country because that process has yielded the much-valued improvement in these past two years."

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5) They talk about the importance of unifying the electorate.

"The nation will be better because we never once gave up the long battle to renew its oldest ideals and to redirect its current energies along more human and hopeful paths."

Listen to the episode for more.

Jacqui Fulton is, in her own words, "podcast and public radio’s biggest fan.” She even built a recording studio in her closet.
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