“I opted not to join you because I was seething with anger”. A friend was explaining why she was a no show to John Callahan’s victory party. I understand the emotion and lord knows I have been there often myself on election nights in the past. John Callahan’s party Tuesday night was different.
Had my friend attended her anger would have evaporated very quickly. I could sense no bitterness in the room; we were disappointment certainly but not bitter. There was no anger or many serious conversations about how stupid the voters are or how much smarter we were than the 54% of the electorate that gave their votes to Charlie Dent. There was still very much a sense of hope and joy in the room. And, it only got better when the Callahan family arrived. They were clearly hurting and maybe a little stunned but they were smiling and waving. They greeted the people on the way to the stage with bear hugs and kisses, John and Mafalda hugged each other a lot and they both kept the children within reach throughout John’s speech. Their daughter and younger son stayed close to their mother for comfort and to provide comfort. The oldest Callahan son was so stoic and so brave he was almost heart breaking. He stood behind his father like a secret service agent. I had a sense that he would have done anything he could to protect his father from having to say the words he was about to say we could all sense the pain he was feeling, because we were feeling it too.
All of us would have done anything to have John’s words be “Thank you, this victory is not about me but it is about what we have done together and about what together we will do to solve our nation’s problems”. But, those were not the words John Callahan said and yet we still felt hope. John Callahan’s personal joy had impacted us all and changed even a cynical guy like me. He campaigned with such enthusiasm and with such promise we were not ready to let that go. We did not want to let him down or show him anything other than the same sense of the possible and of the positive he showed throughout this long campaign. The same hope we had following Mafalda’s introduction of John back in mid February never left us. Our reaction to this speech was the same as after Mafalda’s speech, there was not a dry eye in the house. He spoke about hope, he spoke about moving forward, he spoke about how lucky he was to be able to return to a job he loved and he spoke about how much his family means to him.
After the speech and the TV cameras were turned off John and Mafalda stopped and spoke to everyone, they did not seem like they wanted to leave. They wanted to thank everyone. I think they wanted to be the ones to turn off the lights and call it a day. The campaign was over and they wanted to end it on their terms and their way by spending quality time with their friends, family and supporters. After my bear hug from John I told him that it was proud of him and it was my honor to have supported him and I looked forward to be given the opportunity to do it again.
I have been to more concession speeches than any normal human would normally survive and I have never been to one so affirming and so positive as this one and was for a good reason. He was a great candidate and more importantly he is a great guy, which is the main reason why I supported him in the first place.