In his first words as President-elect, Donald Trump did his best to allay the fears of those – many – Americans who did not vote for him, indeed bitterly resented his even being a candidate for any elected office. It was, by the standards of these events, a fairly long, slightly rambling speech that even took in a break for him to introduce a watching world to the Chair of the Republic National Committee, Reince Prebus.
The Donald suddenly appeared more presidential, and unpartisan. He said nice things about Hillary Clinton, and, mercifully, the crowd assembled didn’t start chanting “Jail Her”. Trump pledged to “seek common ground” and said it was “time for us to come together as one united people”. What was striking was that, on a crowded platform, there were so few people of colour around him. The symbolism of that was more powerful than anything Trump could say, even if he was not so prosaic.
He did not, though, like others before him, make explicit what he needed to do to unite his people. When Richard Nixon won in 1968, again at a time of violent division over race and the Vietnam War, he told a homely story about a home-made sign he had seen on the campaign trail in a small town in Ohio. It read “Bring Us Together” and he pledged to do that and to “bridge the gap” between the generations and the races. It’s fair to say he didn’t entirely succeed.
Trump, as he so often reminds us, is not a politician, and he is not a great phrase maker or speaker either. Yes, he was gracious to his opponent, but not quite as fulsome in his praise as, say Barack Obama was when he won in 2008 and complimented his opponent, John McCain’s, war and public service as a “brave and selfless leader”. It will take all of President Obama’s natural grace, by the way, for him to find something similarly magnanimous us to say to Trump. (remember too that it was Barack Obama’s merciless teasing of Trump at a White house dinner a few years ago that may well have set the famously thin-skinned Trump on the path to replacing him).
Past Presidents-elect have managed to find the words to inspire their supporters and the wider nation. Ronald Reagan, the nearest thing America has seen before to Trump, reassured his fellow Americans that “I am not frightened by what lies ahead and I don’t believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead”. Like Trump he alluded to America’s potential, but more resoundingly: “You know I aim to try to tap that great American spirit that opened up this completely undeveloped continent from coast to coast and made it a great nation, survived several wars, survived a Great Depression, and we’ll survive the problems we face right now”. Kennedy promised “a supreme national effort”. Obama, audaciously, declared; “This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.”
One way or another, though, most presidents disappoint, and the words on the morrow of victory are either forgotten or used against them as their failures mount. The point about Donald Trump is indeed that he is no politician, and that’s what America wanted this time round. They don’t want great speeches; they want jobs. Trump “got” that. And that’s why he is the President-elect.
Full text of Donald Trump’s victory speech:
"Thank you. Thank you very much, everyone. Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business, complicated. Thank you very much.
I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It’s about us. On our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign.
I mean she fought very hard. Hillary has worked 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.
I mean that very sincerely. Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together, to all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.
It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country. As I've said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their family.
It is a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs, who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.
Working together we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I've spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world.
That is now what I want to do for our country. Tremendous potential. I've gotten to know our country so well. Tremendous potential. It is going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it. We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal, and I've gotten to know so many over this 18-month journey.
The time I've spent with them during this campaign has been among my greatest honours.
President Donald Trump life in pictures
President Donald Trump life in pictures
Donald Trump poses in a rocking chair once used by President John F. Kennedy at his New York City residence
Developer Donald Trump with his new bride Marla Maples after their wedding at the Plaza hotel in New York
Donald Trump and Celina Midelfart watch the match between Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer during U.S. Open. She was the date whom Donald Trump was with when he met his current wife Melania at a party in 1996
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas serving as the grand marshal for the Daytona 500, speaks to Donald Trump and Melania Knauss on the starting grid at the Daytona International Speedwa
Developer Donald Trump talks with his former wife Ivana Trump during the men's final at the U.S. Open
Donald Trump and his friend Melania Knauss pose for photographers as they arrive at the New York premiere of Star Wars Episode : 'The Phantom Menace,'
Billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump talks with host Larry King. Trump told King that he was moving toward a possible bid for the United States presidency with the formation of a presidential exploratory committee
Donald Trump answers questions as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura looks on in Brooklyn Park. Trump said on Friday he 'very well might' make a run for president under the Reform Party banner but had not made a final decision
Billionaire Donald Trump makes a face at a friend as he sits next to Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso before the start of the 2003 Miss Universe pageant in Panama City
Entrepreneur Donald Trump is greeted by a Marilyn Monroe character look-a-alike, as he arrives at Universal Studios Hollywood to attend the an open casting call for his NBC television network reality series 'The Apprentice.'
Donald Trump and Simon Cowell present an Emmy during the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Donald Trump and Megan Mullally perform at the 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Donald Trump, poses with his children, son Donald Trump, Jr., and daughters Tiffany and Ivanka
Billionaire Donald Trump told Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner on Tuesday she would be given a second chance after reported misbehavior
Donald Trump holds a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as his wife Melania holds their son Barron in Los Angeles
U.S. property mogul Donald Trump stands next to a bagpiper during a media event on the sand dunes of the Menie estate, the site for Trump's proposed golf resort, near Aberdeen, north east Scotland
Our veterans are incredible people. We will embark upon a project of national growth and renewal. I will harness the creative talents of our people and we will call upon the best and brightest to leverage their tremendous talent for the benefit of all. It is going to happen. We have a great economic plan. We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world. At the same time we will get along with all other nations, willing to get along with us. We will be. We will have great relationships. We expect to have great, great relationships. No dream is too big, no challenge is too great. Nothing we want for our future is beyond our reach.
America will no longer settle for anything less than the best. We must reclaim our country's destiny and dream big and bold and daring. We have to do that. We're going to dream of things for our country, and beautiful things and successful things once again.
I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America's interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone.
All people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility, partnership, not conflict. And now I would like to take this moment to thank some of the people who really helped me with this, what they are calling tonight a very, very historic victory.
First I want to thank my parents, who I know are looking down on me right now. Great people. I've learned so much from them. They were wonderful in every regard. I are truly great parents. I also want to thank my sisters, Marianne and Elizabeth who are here with us tonight. Where are they? They're here someplace. They're very shy actually.
And my brother Robert, my great friend. Where is Robert? Where is Robert?
My brother Robert, and they should be on this stage but that's okay. They're great.
And also my late brother Fred, great guy. Fantastic guy. Fantastic family. I was very lucky.
Great brothers, sisters, great, unbelievable parents. To Melania and Don and Ivanka and Eric and Tiffany and Barron, I love you and I thank you, and especially for putting up with all of those hours. This was tough.
This was tough. This political stuff is nasty and it is tough. So I want to thank my family very much. Really fantastic. Thank you all. Thank you all. Lara, unbelievable job. Unbelievable. Vanessa, thank you. Thank you very much. What a great group.
You've all given me such incredible support, and I will tell you that we have a large group of people. You know, they kept saying we have a small staff. Not so small. Look at all of the people that we have. Look at all of these people.
And Kellyanne and Chris and Rudy and Steve and David. We have got tremendously talented people up here, and I want to tell you it's been very, very special.
I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He's unbelievable. Unbelievable. He travelled with us and he went through meetings, and Rudy never changes. Where is Rudy. Where is he?
Governor Chris Christie, folks, was unbelievable. Thank you, Chris. The first man, first senator, first major, major politician — let me tell you, he is highly respected in Washington because he is as smart as you get, senator Jeff sessions. Where is Jeff? A great man. Another great man, very tough competitor. He was not easy. He was not easy. Who is that? Is that the mayor that showed up? Is that Rudy?
Up here. Really a friend to me, but I'll tell you, I got to know him as a competitor because he was one of the folks that was negotiating to go against those Democrats, Dr Ben Carson. Where's been? Where is Ben? By the way, Mike Huckabee is here someplace, and he is fantastic. Mike and his familiar bring Sarah, thank you very much. Gen. Mike Flynn. Where is Mike? And Gen. Kellogg. We have over 200 generals and admirals that have endorsed our campaign and there are special people. We have 22 congressional medal of honour people. A very special person who, believe me, I read reports that I wasn't getting along with him. I never had a bad second with him. He's an unbelievable star. He is -- that's right, how did you possibly guess? Let me tell you about Reince. I've said Reince. I know it. I know it. Look at all of those people over there. I know it, Reince is a superstar. I said, they can't call you a superstar, Reince, unless we win it. Like secretariat. He would not have that bust at the track at Belmont.
Reince is really a star and he is the hardest working guy and in a certain way I did this. Reince, come up here. Get over here, Reince.
Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. It's about time you did this right. My God. Nah, come here. Say something.
[Reince Priebus: Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, Donald Trump! Thank you. It's been an honour. God bless. Thank God.]
Amazing guy. Our partnership with the RNC was so important to the success and what we've done, so I also have to say, I've gotten to know some incredible people.
The Secret Service people. They're tough and they're smart and they're sharp and I don't want to mess around with them, I can tell ya. And when I want to go and wave to a big group of people and they rip me down and put me back down in the seat, but they are fantastic people so I want to thank the Secret Service.
And law enforcement in New York City, they're here tonight. These are spectacular people, sometimes underappreciated unfortunately, we appreciate them. So it's been what they call an historic event, but to be really historic, we have to do a great job and I promise you that I will not let you down. We will do a great job. We will do a great job. I look very much forward to being your president and hopefully at the end of two years or three years or four years or maybe even eight years you will say so many of you worked so hard for us, with you, you will say that — you will say that that was something that you were — really were very proud to do and I can — thank you very much.
And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning. We're going to get to work immediately for the American people and we're going to be doing a job that hopefully you will be so proud of your president. You will be so proud. Again, it's my honour.
It's an amazing evening. It's been an amazing two-year period and I love this country. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Thank you to Mike Pence."Reuse content