It’s been a long, hard fought electoral season in America ending with an outcome that shocked the world. Donald Trump’s victory came as a rude shock, especially considering that prediction polls across America was confident of Clinton’s strong lead even a day before elections. Trump’s victory surely rocked America into looking within at the deep divisions in its society, that run far deeper than they had fathomed. However, what was more unexpected than the results was the victory speech of Donald Trump- balanced and mature, nothing like what we have been hearing from him since the beginning of the electoral campaign, nor were we expecting to hear from him.
Anti-immigration and a lash out against minorities were the recurrent theme in Trump’s every speech before the election day. Even a day before elections, he spoke bitterly of the Somali population in Minneapolis, calling them a ‘disaster’. After winning the elections, however, Trump’s take on the American dream was far from the bitter divisiveness with which he had carried his campaign so proudly.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together,” said Trump. Speaking about his campaign, he said “it is a movement comprised by Americans of all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.”
The theme of unity that ran across Trump’s speech surely came as a surprise to most who had expected a hard hitting speech of hatred from the man who promised to build a wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent the entry of Mexicans and who had expressed his desire to ban Muslims in America.
More surprising was his graceful take on Hillary Clinton. Anybody following the American election campaign would remember clearly, Trump’s cry of ‘nasty woman’ and ‘crooked Hillary’. To those viewers of Trump’s victory speech, his take on Clinton as one “who has fought very long and very hard over a long period of time and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” must have come as befuddling. After all, it is the same man, who even a day back had warned people against voting for a “corrupt political class.” “Crooked Hillary has not talked about it. She does not know where to begin. She talked about bringing industry back to New York state. Let me tell you, not only didn’t it come back, look at upstate New York, it’s a disaster,” said Trump speaking about his plans of bringing in automobile industry to a crowd of supporters in Michigan at his last rally before elections.
What the world in general and Americans in particular is to make of Trump’s victory speech is hard to tell. Is it possible that tapping into negativity and frustrations of the ‘have-nots’ in an increasingly divisive society was Donald Trump’s trump card that he may or may not use post the electoral victory and rather work towards building a unified America as he promised in his victory speech? Or it is also possible that the grace in Trump’s victory speech was in keeping with the propriety traditionally expected from a country’s president.
But the puzzling electoral season was not yet over for America. Hillary Clinton’s conceding speech the morning after election results, was much awaited. What people were not prepared for was the poise with which she asked her supporters to keep all differences aside and give Donald Trump a fair chance to govern the country.
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it,” said Clinton. She did went on to add, perhaps as a reminder to Donald Trump and his supporters, that “the constitutional democracy also enshrines other things, the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too, and we must defend them.”
The grace with which Clinton urged her supporters to believe in a unified America and be open minded about Trump’s presidency comes in sharp contrast with her speeches earlier where she asked everyone to make sure that Donald Trump never becomes president because he would only be taking America down.
As composed and well balanced Clinton’s speech was, so was the speech of Barack Obama in the White House, where he promised to make sure that the differences between him and Trump do not come in the way of a peaceful transference of presidencies.
“One thing you realise quickly into this job is that the presidency and the vice-presidency is bigger than any others. So I have instructed my team to follow the example that president Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president elect,” said Obama.
The theme of a unified America that ran through the speeches of Trump and Clinton, could be heard loud and clear in Obama’s speech as well.
“We are not Democrats first, we are not Republicans first, we are Americans first, we are patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country. That’s what I heard in Mr. Trump’s remarks last night. That’s that I heard when I spoke to him directly, and I was heartened by that. That’s what the country needs, a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law and respect for each other,” said Obama.
Obama’s words of feeling heartened by Trump’s speech comes just months after he called the candidate not qualified enough to be president of America.
The results of the US elections have surely left a large part of the globe feeling shocked and grievous, but there is a strong message that each of the three speeches of Trump, Clinton and Obama gives out and political leaders can learn from- that unity of the people comes above political differences. Keeping aside all differences and political vengeance, both the winning and the losing side have kept the interests of the people above everything else. Whether or not they stick to this spirit of unity, only time will tell.