Thank you very much for seeking public office. What you did takes considerable courage, hard work, and self-sacrifice.
You put yourself and, indirectly, your family "out there." Sure, you may have had some selfish motives, but usually your main reason for running was to serve others and make society better.
Even if we do not vote for you, the rest of us still benefit from what you do. You have given us a choice, which we take for granted, but which is unimaginable to people in some places.
You have probably felt anger, despair, disappointment, dismay, embarrassment, fatigue, frustration, pain, and regret, among many other things. Here's hoping you have also known an even greater share of happiness, hope, surprise, pride, enthusiasm, satisfaction, pleasure, and fulfillment.
Those of us on the sidelines cannot imagine, much less actually understand, the investment you have made of some of your most precious personal assets: emotion, energy, family, friendships, pride, reputation, resources, talent, and time.
Theodore Roosevelt put it this way in his famous "Man in the Arena" speech:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
John F. Kennedy is said to have kept in his wallet this excerpt from a poem by Domingo Ortega: "Bullfight critics ranked in rows, Crowd the plaza full; But he's the only one who knows – And he's the man who fights the bull."
We critics like to think we play a useful role in the process, too, but we also recognize the powerful truth in these expressions. You don't just recognize that truth, however. You have experienced it firsthand.
As an election loser you are in very good company. Some of the best, greatest, and most decent Americans in history have suffered political defeat: John Adams, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and Bill Bradley, just to name a few at the highest level.
Obviously, many politicians who lost elections go on to win, and even to greatness. Others are eventually recognized as great even if a loss ended their electoral career.
Most who lose probably proceed into political obscurity. For them – for you -- there is another kind of greatness that comes from having tried, and from the well-earned, if often unspoken, gratitude of the rest of us.
Lest this all come off as insincere and syrupy, many of us, including this columnist, must admit to taking delight in the defeats some of you suffer. In many cases we find you and your views obnoxious, or even dangerous. We did what we could to beat you and hope you never run for anything again.
But on another level we still admire what you have done and acknowledge that you have made a valuable contribution to the political system that we all at least profess to treasure. We may not like your kind of political tree, but we realize, perhaps begrudgingly, that without it we would not have the beautiful and beneficial political forest that we love.
Be a good loser and let your loss reveal to all that you have the kind of character that is itself a great victory. Take the high road to the greatest extent you can and remember that "Don't get mad; get even" may be a catchy maxim, but is probably not the best advice for a happy life.
That goes double for those of you who were fortunate enough to win. Political victory poses challenges of its own. We thank you for running, but will thank you much more if you serve well.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.