Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Concede - Martha Coakley

Speech By: Martha Coakley - Senate Candidate
Title: I Concede
Date: January 19, 2010
Location: Boston Massachusetts
Occasion: Loss of Senate Special Election
Length (minutes): 8:21
Video Posted:
Martha Coakley wasn’t supposed to have to give this speech. Unfortunately for her, she did. Scott Brown did 66 public events, during the six week special election campaign, or, 11 a week. Coakley did just 19 events during the same stretch, or just over three a week. While she apparently recognized she would lose at the end, the personal disappointment of seeing a lofty goal denied because of some internal flaw - well, actually, that really is the stuff of ancient Greek tragedy.

Coakley’s remarks were prepared - she keeps looking down at the podium and moving something with her hands - which is always a good thing in a tough situation like this.

In my earlier post on concession speeches, I detailed the elements of a successful concession -
  • Announce you have called the winner to concede, and wish that person luck in office.
  • Thank your family. If your campaign has been at all active, it has truly put a burden on them.
  • Thank your supporters for all their hard work.
  • Mention how you much you appreciate the opportunity to represent your party, and to meet as many voters as you did.
  • Say thank you once more, then leave the stage.

Although in a slightly different order, it’s a formula Coakley stuck to with little variation.

She starts out with a weak attempt at humor - “I don’t know, somebody told me there was a crowd out here.”

Then she goes immediately to the point of her talk - “I just got off the phone with Scott Brown and I’ve offered him my congratulations, and my best wishes on his victory tonight.

Despite her obvious personal disappointment, she then shows a moment of true class - “I told him Mr. Brown, you’ve got two lovely daughters, which he does.

With only this slight variation from the formula I suggested, she thanks her supporters first - “You poured your hearts and souls into this campaign. I want to say an incredibly sincere thank you.

Next she turns - literally - to thank the family standing up there with her, husband Tom, her sisters, and nieces and nephews. She talks about Tom’s hard work on the campaign trail, and, in a very human aside, about the family members who couldn’t really comprehend what the campaign was about, their two dogs.

She then offers thanks to a few very special volunteers in her campaign, President Obama, Former President Clinton, and a very personal thank you to Vicki Kennedy, widow of the Senator whose seat Coakley had hoped to win.

Finally, she gets to the fourth element of the formula, talking about the ideas and issues she campaigned on, and which are philosophical underpinnings of her party. She talks about meeting voters who share those views.

Then, if there is any failure in her concession, she blows the conclusion. She quotes from the final passage of the most famous speech of the man whose seat she had hoped to assume. That it was his concession speech, in the only race he ever lost, makes the failure more telling.

She quotes it this way - “We will always remember our terrific Senator Ted Kennedy and his words - the work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on.

If this is the failure of the speech writer, then that person should be ashamed. There are far too many sources readily available on the internet where the correct language is posted. I have seen them.

Perhaps though, it was just the failure of mist-clouded eyes to properly read what had correctly been transcribed. I’d like to think that’s what it was.

For the record, here’s how Senator Ted Kennedy ended his only concession speech:
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.
For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom 


  1. Thanks Tom
    I enjoyed the article. It was my first reading of your work, and will not be the last. Ted is in a full spin.

    Marty G.

  2. Tom, your original post on concession speeches is a brilliant template, and refocused my political thought process, v.a.v. election speeches. Your observations on concession speeches are valid, proven and evocative.

    I'm still absorbing several of your Coakley concession speech comments.

    1. I do not "get" the point of Coakley's mention of Sen.-elect Brown's two daughters. There was no follow through. Nor was there any mention or at least a nod to Brown's wife of 23 year's, Gail Huff. At the very least, Gail is a respected TV reporter on her own right and she is locally known. This should have been mentioned.

    2. Ms. Coskley repeatedly used the word "sincere" in relation to herself... but not in the efforts of the supporters, campaign workers... I found the first mention awkward, the rest eyebrow raising.

    3. She resurrected the late Ted Kennedy throughout her speech. That too was slightly unnerving.

    I do not have first hand recall of Ted Kennedy's presidential concession speech but I'm glad you corrected Ms. Coakley's version. If the speechwriter misquoted Mr. Kennedy thusly, h/she will undoubtedly professionally suffer from such a gaffe.

    As always, The Bully Pulpit delivers a provactive analysis!

    Thanks, Tom,


  3. Lina,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. As I said in my initial post on the topic - a concession speech is one you'd prefer not to have to give, but one you really don't want to blow, in the event you are required to give it.

    As for your points:

    1. Actually she did mention Gail, even before his daughters. It is in the video I posted, about 19 seconds in, as a matter of fact. I just didn't bother to mention it in my analysis. Mea Culpa. I was just struck by the graciousness of her aside about his daughters, given the trying circumstances of the moment.

    2. Well, she uses "sincere" twice, but not in relation to herself. She thanks her supporters - "I want to say an incredibly sincere thank you ...," and also uses sincere again when thanking her husband. But those are the only two instances I caught.
    I was more startled by this phrase - "I will not forget, the fierce determination with which we approached this." To most observers, her campaign was anything but fierce. Or determined. It seemed she was trying to answer the criticisms which had already been voiced quietly, and which will grow louder in coming weeks, of her less than energetic campaign.

    3. I am not surprised at her recurrent references to Ted Kennedy. The campaign was, after all, for the seat he'd held since 1962. And, to a Massachusetts Democrat, the Kennedy name is invoked with some reverence.

    Thanks again for your comment, and compliment!