After doing a couple of politically themed posts the last couple of weeks, I’m ready to move on and transition back to other stuff. So (watch this) let’s talk about moving on and transitioning gracefully. Living in the limelight is tough, I’m sure, and moving on from a highly visible public position in any profession or enterprise is tough, too, whether one transitions by choice or by compulsion. Let’s talk about some positive role models that show us how it’s done. And let’s start with Alex Trebek.
Alex Trebek hosted the game show Jeopardy! for 34 years before passing away from pancreatic cancer two days ago. He went public with his cancer a couple of years ago, and received an outpouring of public support. Many people would acquire a sense of ownership and control over a show they ran for 34 years and attempt to control what happened after their departure. Not Alex. Always warm and friendly, always graceful and dignified, here is what he said about who would succeed him:
Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me, because I have no say in that whatsoever. It’s not a decision that would be up to me. And I would not make myself available to presenting an opinion. … I would leave it up to the people in charge.
Here’s another example. Dan Quinn was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons for several years. The team initially enjoyed great success under his watch, making the Super Bowl in the 2016 season. But the team declined after that and started off with a bad record this year. Quinn was fired on October 11, 2020. Here is the first paragraph of the statement he released shortly after being terminated:
To the city of Atlanta: How fortunate am I that I close this chapter the very same way I opened it — with gratitude. Being the Head Coach of your Atlanta Falcons has been the privilege of a lifetime. I can’t express my appreciation enough to Arthur Blank [owner of the Falcons] for the opportunity to represent this organization for the past six seasons. It truly has been my family. My wife Stacey and I will forever be grateful for every single person in this organization who made our lives better and fuller.
I’m in no rush, so let’s look at a couple more public figures who show how a transition is done. How about George H. W. Bush, who was a decorated U.S. Navy pilot in World War Two, flying a Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber. On one mission he was shot down but was recovered by a Navy rescue crew. Other downed pilots on that mission who were captured by the Japanese rather than rescued were subsequently executed. Bush was also director of the CIA before being elected President of the United States, inaugurated on January 20, 1989. But he lost a bid for a second term to Democrat Bill Clinton. Here is an excerpt from his concession speech.
Here’s the way we see it and the country should see it — that the people have spoken, and we respect the majesty of the democratic system. I just called Governor Clinton over in Little Rock and offered my congratulations. He did run a strong campaign. I wish him well in the White House.
And I want the country to know that our entire administration will work closely with his team to ensure the smooth transition of power. There is important work to be done, and America must always come first, so we will get behind this new president and wish him well.
Let’s do one more. Hillary Clinton gave a concession speech in 2016 after being defeated by Donald Trump. I’ve heard some rumors that some people don’t think she actually conceded, so it’s worth quoting her words. She opened with this:
Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for and I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country.
Not quite the sweet spot, maybe, but hey, she conceded. She followed up later with this:
We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. 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. It 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.
These are great examples. In America, it’s not just men and women in high office who know how to say farewell to kings with grace and poise — even football coaches and talk show hosts can do it. And let’s throw in a Mo app here. LDS bishops serve faithfully and work hard at their second job, without pay … and when the time comes to be released and move on, they invariably do so willingly and with a vote of support for their successor in office.
So yeah, it’s tough, but it seems like most Americans can rise to the occasion and exit gracefully. Let’s appreciate those I have cited (and there are many more I could have cited) and hope that those presently in high office can learn from their fine examples. All the world’s a stage. History is watching. In some future year, perhaps 2112, people will still look back with some admiration on these good examples, I think. So this was your positive, uplifting, non-partisan, non-political post for the day. Seventy-one days to Inauguration Day, 2021. I think we’ll make it. I hope we’ll make it. God bless America.