It’s tougher to be gracious in defeat

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It is no secret that the American Presidential election fever has gripped the world. Despite being far, far away on these remote shores of Samoa, it has been hard to escape the election mania. It is the one thing people have been talking about for the past few days. 

Donald Trump’s stunning upset against all the odds has heightened the public interest in what has been a very interesting campaign. The fact is this election – and the shocking outcome with regards to how Trump overcame the so-called projections to win – will continue to be the topic of conversation for the next few weeks, months and possibly years to come. 

And that’s understandable especially given the fact that just about everybody got it wrong. As a matter of fact, as this piece was being compiled yesterday, there was a story about the pollsters calling an emergency meeting to find out just how they got it so wrong. 

We know polls based on public opinion are not the be all and end all judgment when it comes to these matters but you’d expect them to be reliable to an extent. In this case, they were all wrong. It will certainly be interesting to learn more and find out what exactly happened. 

Away from all the questions, the excitement and the protests though, there is one aspect about the American election I personally admire. That is the humility and the spirit with which the candidates immediately come together when they know their rival has had the better of them.

Indeed, what stood out for me was the manner in which Hillary Clinton and incumbent President Barack Obama swallowed the bitterness of defeat and accepted the unthinkable that Trump had actually won. This reflects the maturity of the American democracy, one that is the envy of the world.

Folks, it’s easy to remain positive when you win. Losing, however, is a different matter altogether. It takes character and class to remain poised when all you really want to do is break down and cry.

But we don’t see that in the American election – with the candidates at least.

Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty awkward concession speeches at the end of the Presidential election. We’ve heard plenty of speeches with venom – the types that clearly reflect the sore losers in the candidates.

But Hillary Clinton remained all class in her concessionary speech, albeit a day later.

“Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,” she said. 

“I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it, too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful, and it will be for a long time.

“But I want you to remember this: 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 bighearted.

“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought, but I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

Wow what class. It wasn’t just Hillary Clinton though. Now listen to President Barack Obama.

“Now, it is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences,” he said. “But remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running.

“And one thing you realize quickly in this job is that the presidency and the vice presidency is bigger than any of us. So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect.

“Because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”

And in rallying the country to get behind Trump, Obama said: “Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.

“We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s what I heard when I spoke to him directly. And I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs -- a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law, and respect for each other.”

But it wasn’t just one-way traffic. Even Trump acknowledged his rivals and paid tribute to them.

Listen to him: “I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us — it’s about us — on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign. I mean, she — she fought very hard.

 “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.

 “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”

Indeed, if America is such a world leader in most things, politicians from Samoa – and all over the world for that matter – would do well to observe and learn from their example when it comes to humility, accepting defeat.

Politics is ruthless but at the end of the day, politicians are people with feelings. They have families to go home to.

It’s certainly a lesson for the politicians of this country who expend so much money and resources on election petitions. Sometimes you’ve just got to admit that your competitor was better. We cannot win all the time. But we can be gracious in defeat and prove to be the better person. 

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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