15 Most Memorable Presidential Concession Speeches Over the Years (Videos)

Rosemary Rossi
·5 min read

Adlai Stevenson (1952)

After losing the race to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Stevenson said, “Someone asked me how I felt, and I was reminded of a story that a fellow townsman of ours used to tell – Abraham Lincoln. He said he felt like the little boy who had stubbed his toe in the dark. He said that he was too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh.”

Richard Nixon (1960)

Richard Nixon’s performance (and sweaty upper lip) in the first televised political debate resulted in his narrow loss to John Kennedy. Nixon said, “My congratulations to Senator Kennedy for his fine race in this campaign.”

Hubert Humphrey (1968)

Eight years later, Nixon was on the receiving end of congratulations from his Democrat opponent. “Please know that you will have my support in unifying and leading the nation,” Hubert Humphrey said. “I’m confident that if constructive leaders in both our parties joined together now, we shall be able to go on with the business of building a better America we all seek in the spirit of peace and harmony.”

George McGovern (1972)

Nixon was re-elected in 1972, during the height of the Vietnam War. George McGovern went on to tell his supporters, “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.”

Gerald Ford (1976)

After Gerald Ford’s defeat by Jimmy Carter in 1976, laryngitis prevented the former POTUS from delivering a concession speech –so his wife Betty Ford did. With her husband staring over her shoulder, she said, “The president asked me to tell you that he telephoned president elect Carter a short time ago and congratulated him on his victory.”

Jimmy Carter (1980)

One term president Jimmy Carter graciously handed the baton to Ronald Reagan, adding, “I have been blessed as only a few people ever have — to help shape the destiny of this nation.”

Walter Mondale (1984)

Walter Mondale was defeated in a landslide by Ronald Reagan, who won his second term. “Although I would have rather won, tonight we rejoice in our democracy, we rejoice in the freedom of a wonderful people, and we accept their verdict,” Mondale said.

Michael Dukakis (1988)

Michael Dukakis lost to Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, blaming himself on spending too much time on his day job as Massachusetts governor. Dukakis went on to say, “I know I speak for you and all the American people when I say that he will be OUR president, and we’ll work with him. This nation faces major challenge ahead, and we must work together.”

George H.W. Bush (1992)

When Bush 41 reneged on his “Read my lips: no new taxes” promises, Bill Clinton rose in the polls and won the race. H.W. went on to say, “I want the country to know that our entire administration will work closely with his team to insure the smooth transition of power. There is important work to be done and America must always come first.”

Bob Dole (1996)

Bill Clinton’s victory was the first time in U.S. history that the POTUS was elected without winning the male vote. “The president is my opponent, not my enemy, and I wish him well and I pledge my support in whatever advances the cause of a better America because that’s what the race was about in the first place,” Dole said.

Al Gore (2000)

Although Al Gore won the popular vote, George W. Bush went on to win the Electoral College. After an electoral dispute over a Florida recount (and a Supreme Court ruling in Bush’s favor), Gore said, “I say to president elect Bush that what remains a partisan ranker must now be put aside and may God bless his stewardship of this country.”

John Kerry (2004)

Bush 43 won a second term, painting John Kerry as a flip-flopper on the Iraq War. In his concession speech, Kerry spoke of his call to the president: “We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need — the desperate need — for unity, for finding common ground, coming together. Today, I hope that we can begin the healing.”

John McCain (2008)

John McCain said of Barak Obama: “In a contest as long and as painful as this has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance, but that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president.”

Mitt Romney (2012)

The GOP was all-but-certain that Mitt Romney was on his way to the White House. In fact, Obama was in for another four years. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing,” Romney said. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”

Hillary Clinton (2016)

Polls had the former first lady a sure bet as the 45th President of the United States, but then what many believed to be the impossible happened – reality star Donald Trump crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes by winning major battleground states. The following morning, Clinton gave a formal speech, expressing her disappointment and pain of her loss, but asking her supporters to accept the outcome. She said of Trump, “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”

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