Why Presidential Candidates Started Giving Concession Speeches

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tags: election 2016, concession speeches

In every presidential contest, there is a winner and at least one loser. And, as long as there has been a loser, there has been a moment in time for that loser to acknowledge the loss. On Tuesday night, if all goes according to plan, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will do so by delivering a concession speech that acknowledges that his or her campaign for the White House has ended in defeat.

But that tradition in fact marks a departure from most elections in American history. For most of that time, such acknowledgements would have been private. For example, after losing the election that led to the country’s first transfer of power between parties, John Adams must have said something to Thomas Jefferson. (We do know something about what he thought of the turn of events: In 1801, shortly after the loss, Adams wrotein a letter that he traced his defeat partially to his own party’s overestimate of its influence.)

Then, as Scott Farris explains in his book Almost President, changes in technology helped to turn a private acknowledgement into a public concession. By Farris’ reckoning, the first such congratulatory telegram went from William Jennings Bryan to William McKinley in 1896, Al Smith gave the first radio-broadcast concession speech in 1928 and Adlai Stevenson first did so on television in 1952.

Read entire article at Time Magazine

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