Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters, Nov. 9, offering a message of thanks, apology and hope. Here are the key moments from that fervent address. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

As the early morning hours ticked away and the 2016 presidential race was called for Donald Trump on election night, some critics on social media pounced on Hillary Clinton for not giving a concession speech. While she phoned Trump to officially concede, she did not appear in front of her supporters at the Javits Center in New York, instead letting her campaign manager John Podesta make a brief appearance under that massive glass ceiling so many had thought she was going to shatter.

Yet her delayed remarks Wednesday morning offer one possible reason she waited. This was not just a concession speech, even if it had the gracious calls to her supporters to give Trump "an open mind and a chance to lead." It was also an inspiring message aimed directly at young people, particularly young women and young girls, who Clinton seemed to feel a responsibility to address in the wake of her historic campaign -- and ultimate loss.

[Remembering a speech from ‘the most beautiful loser’ after Trump won’t commit to accepting results]

"To the young people, in particular, I hope you will hear this," Clinton said, pausing for emphasis. "I've spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I've had successes and I've had setbacks -- sometimes really painful ones.

"Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it," she said, to cheers and applause. "It is. It is worth it." 

Certainly, anyone could have watched a video later online of the speech had it been delivered in the middle of the night, on that vast stage, under that still intact glass ceiling. Yet the importance of the message, and who it was aimed at in particular, allowed for the composure and restraint that was required at such a pivotal and historic moment, even in her loss. And delaying it allowed its message to break through in ways that might have gotten lost in the early morning hours.

"To all the women, and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion," Clinton said, appearing to come close to choking up. "Now I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling but someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we think right now." 

Then, in an emotional message given the context of the campaign, she addressed their younger sisters and daughters: "To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams." 

If done well, presidential concession speeches, in their humility and their grace, offer more examples of leadership than many offered in victory. The ability to put aside one's own emotions, to model graciousness in losing and to focus on the greater good -- a peaceful transition of power -- is something we see rarely in our leaders. At the end of this "consequential election," as Clinton called it, the more prepared she was to deliver it, and the more people -- and particularly young women and girls -- who saw it, the better.

Read also:

How we reached a Donald Trump presidency

Clinton urges disappointed backers to give Trump a 'chance to lead'

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