John McCain's concession speech made him an American hero
Posted on the 4th Sep 2018 in the category sport

John McCain dying has brought back a lot of memories for me of Barack Obama's victory in 2008.
Now history seems to have remembered Obama's victory by the numbers but at the time the country was on a knife-edge.


I had spent weeks volunteering for Obama in Florida and when America went to the polls there were credible questions about what would happen. Had Americans told pollsters they would vote Obama so not to appear racist but then vote the white man in the booth.
If it went down to Florida like 2000 would the army of Democrat lawyers stop the Republican sharp suits stealing the election. If the Republicans won the election by questionable methods would there be rioting? 


I spent election night at the official Democrat Florida Party in Jungle Island, Miami. Looking back John McCain's concession speech was a seminal moment in that election and in American history. After the shenanigans of 2000 the concession speech took on an even more important role, when a candidate conceeds that's that. And for all the people on the losing side they need to hear their candidate say its over and thank them.


Hence, in 2016 when a shocked America watched in disbelief as Donald Trump won the election the country needed to hear Hilary Clinton speak, and concede and thank the milions who helped her, She stayed silent, which was unforgivable, her heartbreak at her own ambition's failure overtook the good of the nation she wanted to lead.


I have watched the concession speech since he died and it was as good as I remember it. He framed Obama`s victory in historic terms setting up the new President`s Chicago victory speech perfectly.


McCain would have been told if he played the race card in the election he would have a better chance of winning. And seeing how Donald Trump`s dog whistle turned into a elephant horn during Obama`s presidency the nasty voices in the former Vietnam hostage`s ears would have been right. But he did not succumb´╝î how many politicians have the moral fortitude to do what is right when doing the wrong thing would clinch them their life`s ambition and the world`s biggest political prize? Not many. Remember. that nice guy with a super smile who was up against Sadiq Khan for London Mayor. One of many politicians down the years who did not have McCain`s morals.


Below is an extract of my book - Obama and Me: The Incredible True Story of a YouTube Sensation (5 star Amazon review) of when McCain made his historic concession speech.
“I looked at the massive TV screens and saw the pictures of people going crazy across America. Waves and waves of goose bumps rushed over my skin and the hairs on my neck stood for attention for minutes on end as the enormity of the situation hit me.
Against all the historical odds a mixed race man was President of the United States of America. The good guys had won, and just to see so many people go crazy in the streets was fantastic.
 It was one of those all too rare moments in which you see young and old celebrating like there was no tomorrow, and all because of politics. I could tell this night was never going to end and that no-one would be going home early because the adrenaline would have stopped any sane person sleeping.
Music would blast from the sound system in no particular order and forno particular reason, but every time there was quiet you knew something important was happening. A hush descended across the room and all the televisions showed the same image –John McCain.
He was just about to concede in this most historic of elections.McCain was speaking in Phoenix and everyone in our room was waiting to see what he was going to say. His wife was at his side as well as Sarah Palin, who looked gorgeous in a shiny blue power suit.


A cheer went up in the room when he said he’d just phoned Barack Obama to congratulate him on winning the election. However, the reaction in Arizona was very different. As soon as Barack Obama’s name was mentioned the all white audience began booing. Everyone around me started to laugh because the Republicans were obviously hurting.
To McCain’s credit he motioned to his supporters to shut up and went on to give the best speech of his life, clearly aimed at uniting America. Within a few moments he was acknowledging the enormity of a black man being elected to the White House, 100 years after the uproar that greeted President Theodore Roosevelt inviting Booker T Washington to dinner, and referencing the ‘cruelty of those times’.


After about three minutes of the speech I had a panic attack. I realised I hadn’t being taking notes. I went to grab my notebook but realised I didn’t have one, then searched for a pen in my pocket and realised I didn’t have one of those either. My worries passed though; I assumed I’d be able to pick up the exact wording of some of his most important quotes on the BBC or CNN when I compiled my report.
I smiled as I thought about the number of times someone had said to me “What, a journalist without a pen?” and again, not for the first time in America, I thought ‘Oh, fuck it, I’m not being paidto be here.’
Instead of worrying I just savoured the moment and took in every word of John McCain’s historic 10 minute speech. What I found fascinating was that none of the Democrats around me mocked the old war hero.
I think people realised he was a goodman and not a Republican in the image of George Bush or Karl Rove. However, when he said that there was nothing more he could have done to have won the election I disagreed.
He could have played the race card, like many racists in his party wanted him to,but he resisted because he knew it could have torn America apart.
He might have won more votes, but he must have known that if the forces of bigotry were unleashed in his campaign it could well have opened a Pandora’s Box of racial tension.


For his courage and his decency, to me John McCain is an American hero.
I felt goosepimples cover my skin as I watched his speech. It was a perfect way to concede an election.When he finished speaking a round of respectful applause went around the room and everyone near me commented on what a great speech it had been.
It was all the sweeter because it meant that Obama had really won.

Even the most pessimistic conspiracy theorist in the room couldn’t have denied that Obama was going to be President. I took the last few gulps of my rum and coke and again congratulated myself for being in America at that moment in history, before heading off to get more drinks. I was overjoyed that Kale was coming the other way with a double rum and coke for me.

I gave him another big hug, as much for the drink as for the fact that we’d helped Barack Obama win the election of elections.



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