The Late Movies: 20 Years of Presidential Victory and Concession Speeches


Last night, Americans watched as Barack Obama won his second term as president. Watching that speech, I was reminded that we see both victory speeches and concession speeches every four years. And, you guessed it, YouTube has lots of them. Tonight, let's go back twenty years to Bill Clinton's first (surprisingly brief!) acceptance speech, then roll through all the rest.

Clinton - 1992

Live from Little Rock. Everyone looks so young here, especially Al Gore. My favorite part? The crowd's chants of "Hillary" around the five-minute mark. Also interesting: George H.W. Bush's concession (starts in the middle of the clip).

Clinton - 1996

Again from Little Rock. After a lengthy speech from Gore, Clinton is only introduced at the very end of this clip; if you want to see Clinton's speech without the Gore context, check the next two segments. Overall, Clinton's speech is vastly longer and more detailed than his 1992 address. He repeatedly hammers on central themes including faith, the economy, education, and the environment. See also: Dole's concession.

The second section is below. An applause break for Bob Dole happens around the nine-minute mark, and a shout-out to Jack Kemp. Close to the end of this clip: "We have work to do to give all of our children the gift of an education. To make sure every eight-year-old can read, every twelve-year-old can log on to the Internet, and yes, every single eighteen-year-old in this country willing to work for it can have a college education." I am glad to know that getting net access for tweens was such a high presidential priority!

And here's the conclusion:

Bush - 2000

As we all remember, the 2000 election involved a lengthy recount in Florida, so there were no traditional victory or concession speeches on election night. 36 days later, Al Gore conceded, then an hour later, Bush declared victory in Austin, Texas:

Bush - 2004

Cheney does a nice introduction, then Bush hams it up a bit: "Laura's the love of my life. [Crowd hoots and cheers.] Well, I'm glad you love her too!" Also: Kerry's concession.

Obama - 2008

This was the most emotional one for me, and apparently for all the people in the crowd. This still makes me tear up, especially the shots of the hopeful onlookers. Seeing Jesse Jackson cry is particularly powerful. Also: McCain's concession.

Obama - 2012

Any candidate playing Stevie Wonder as intro music gets my vote. Note: there's somebody in the crowd taking pictures with an iPad like a dork. Sign of the times, I guess. Also: Romney's concession. Another interesting tidbit is Romney's 2008 Republican primary concession in which he says that universal private health care is his first priority.