This was the presidential campaign where grace got lost.
Bear with me while I recap just a few ungraceful low points: Donald Trump admitted on tape that he enjoyed sexually assaulting and sexually pressuring women. He mocked physical disabilities and women’s appearances, all for laughs on the campaign trail. He proved to be quick to anger and established a pattern of insulting, interrupting and badgering Hillary Clinton in live televised debates.
Grace was talked about quite a bit before the polls opened, as in: Will Trump have the grace to concede defeat and let the nation move on from this long, hideous root canal of an election we’ve suffered through?
As it turned out, it was indeed out of defeat that we witnessed the rise of grace; the pundits simply had the wrong person. In a singularly elegant and consoling concession speech, Clinton delivered the warmth to draw us close, the gratitude to make us feel noticed and significant, and the uplifting call to action to prod us out of our shock, anxiety and dispiriting numbness.
It’s an example of grace from start to finish, an example of how to rise above the fray, how to connect deeply with people, how to ease worries with a polished demeanor and a message of hope, delivered with calm command. Most of all, she kept her eye on the big picture: assuring that the democratic process would continue unimpeded, urging the nation to come together, saying that we will need compassion and have work to do.
“I love you all too,” she began, speaking to friends and supporters at Manhattan’s New Yorker Hotel.
From there, she addressed the process: She had already congratulated Trump, she said, 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, without a trace of bitterness, of the man who had threatened to imprison her, who made fun of her collapse from the flu, who attacked her in alarmingly personal ways.
She continued by expressing her gratitude to her supporters, lavishing praise on her audience. She reminded us of the great goal: Her campaign “was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and bighearted.”
Bighearted. That is the key, right there, to moving forward. Clinton urged us to move together, rather than apart. To heal the divisiveness of the election by opening our big hearts to those around us and across the country and in those communities we may never step into. Being human can hurt, as we have discovered through countless tragedies both close at hand and far away, when seeing others in pain can make our hearts fall to the floor. But it is through those hearts, that empathy, that what divides us can vanish: “If we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.”
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