Once upon a time, a Democrat Chief of Staff confided in me that if Senator John McCain ever ran for President he’d have a hard time not voting for him. Simply stated, Senator McCain is one of the United States’ greatest public servants. While you may have opinions about some of the stances he has or is taking, we should always be thankful that a man like him dedicated his life to the cause of America.
This is the man who was the son and grandson of Admirals who graduated from the United States Naval Academy, became a Navy pilot, was shot down over enemy territory, was tortured for years – the effects of which still haunt his body today, decided to stay in the Navy once he was released and returned to the country he loves, became a United States Representative, then a Senator, and, finally, his party’s nominee for the highest office in the land. That type of resume is rarefied air. It should be admired and applauded.
We can look back at recent history and groan over the national discourse he encouraged when he elevated Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee. Also remember, however, he stood up to conspiracy theorists who attended his rallies. That takes guts. If you don’t think so, you stand in the middle of thousands of people who cheer that theory and tell them straight to their face that they’re wrong.
In recent years, it seemed McCain forgot that doggedness to what was right regardless. But there he was, on the floor of the U.S. Senate with Mitch McConnell gleefully smirking at him like he had just gotten something sweet from the candy desk waiting for McCain to give an aye vote. And then, the now infamous turning of his wrist in an authoritative manner to thumbs down sinking the “skinny repeal.” Guts. Maverick.
What a way to go out I thought. A guy who has stared down death again and maybe, just maybe, realized that his life shouldn’t go out the way it’d been going for the last few years. So I thought.
There he was again last week, accepting the National Constitution Center’s annual Liberty Medal and giving us another glimpse of that spirit that had earned him his nickname. If you haven’t read or heard by now, McCain seemed to have attacked those in his party – most poignantly the President – who would seek to demonize others for their own gain. But that quote is only a paragraph of a very important speech which one can only make towards the twilight of their lives. It echoed General MacArthur’s speech at West Point known as “Duty, Honor, Country” – another must listen if you have the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if McCain had listened to it for inspiration.
McCain began by complimenting Vice President Biden on how they “believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity.” He echoed President George H.W. Bush’s speech for the same award calling the United States “the most wondrous land on earth” and how for that land to continue, we must sacrifice. To do so, he opined, is to earn “the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America.”
As many have shared on social media, he continued: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
McCain ends his thoughts on a somber note though. He stated, “I haven’t always served [America’s cause] well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight.” He continued, “May God bless America, and give us the strength and wisdom, the generosity and compassion, to do our duty for this wondrous land, and for the world that counts on us . . . What greater cause could anyone ever serve.”
Senator McCain has, throughout his life, dedicated himself to the cause of America as he puts it. He has indicated to all of us watching, that with whatever time he has left, he will not bend his ideals anymore. He will stand up for the institutions he has committed himself to for over sixty years. No matter who attacks him and on whatever media platform they choose. Someone once said that you should be afraid of the person who has nothing left to lose. And, I don’t think the President, his administration, or his advisors counted on that person being Senator John “Maverick” McCain.
I for one am looking forward to his swan song to what he called “this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, brave, magnificent country.” You should be too.