By Emma Kaden
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”
—Sen. John McCain, 2008 Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech
On August 25, Sen. John McCain passed away at the age of 81 from brain cancer. McCain was a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War and spent five and a half years in captivity as a prisoner of war (POW). He earned several medals, including three Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, two Legion of Merit awards, a Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the Vietnam War, McCain started his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1986, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and in 2008 he ran as the Republican presidential candidate against Barack Obama. Many prominent leaders have expressed their deep admiration for McCain.
Among those who have honored his achievements in the days since his death, are former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. According to Bush:
“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”
Former President Barack Obama:
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
It’s especially significant that many of the leaders who gave tribute to McCain were once his political adversaries. In 2000, Bush and McCain engaged in a bitter primary battle for the Republican nomination, and in 2008, Obama triumphed over McCain in the presidential election. However, both former presidents immediately offered their condolences and spoke of McCain with kindness and respect.
McCain’s political views may not have been shared with all of his fellow Americans, but that made no impact on the honor and respect shown after McCain’s passing and in the days leading up to his death. McCain was a Maverick and urged Americans to compromise and find common ground—although McCain has passed on, his spirit will never be forgotten.