Reflecting on the Life of John McCain

John McCain, Lakeville, Minnesota, Oct 2008

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John McCain, the US Senator from Arizona, passed away on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 91. AfroAmerica Network remembers a man who did so much for the US, an American Hero and a political role model. A man with strong moral values and principles, despite human flaws. 

 There is a widespread agreement that John McCain,  in Congress, despite the pressure to take side, whether on the left or the right,  often  chose what he considered right. One example is when he supported ObamaCare, against the overwhelming pressure from his Republican party. 

In “Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir,” John  McCain reflected on his imperfections: “I have spent much of my life choosing my own attitude, often carelessly, often for no better reason than to indulge a conceit. At other times, I chose my own way with good cause and to good effect. . . . When I chose well I did so to keep a balance in my life — a balance between pride and regret, between liberty and honor.”

John McCain justified such self serving choices, not aligned with his own values, with the fact that he represented a conservative state or wanted to win elections from people who espoused values  he did not necessarily agree with. But at the critical moment, he chose to remain true to himself even if it meant a high risk to loose elections.

During the campaign trail in 2008, he defended Barack Obama, his rival for the presidency, in the face of constituents spouting racist conspiracies and hatred against the then presidential candidate and Senator from Illinois. When a woman said to McCain at a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota in October 2008, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, um, he’s an Arab,”McCain grabbed the microphone from her, cutting her off. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

John McCain, as a congressman in 1983, voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.  Even after President Ronald Reagan finally decided to approve the bill for MLK Day, McCain voted against it. He was on the losing end of a 338 to 90 vote in the House of Representatives. However, on April 4, 2008, McCain changed position on MLK Day.  On April 4, 2008 — the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's death — John McCain, no longer standing by that vote, said the vote was wrong in a speech he gave in Memphis, the city where King died.

"We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I myself made long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong," he said, to loud reaction from the crowd. "I was wrong, and eventually realized it in time to give full support — full support — for a state holiday in my home state of Arizona. I'd remind you that we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans.

His view, at the end of his life, could be summarized in a statement he made in 2018, as he was battling brain cancer:

“Respect for the God-given dignity of every human being, no matter their race, ethnicity or other circumstances of their birth, is the essence of American patriotism."

John Sidney McCain III was born on August 29, 1936 and died on August 25, 2018. He was an American politician and naval officer. He served as a United States Senator from Arizona from 1987 until his death. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958.

He fought in the Vietnam War and was a prisoner of war until 1973. Despite torture and abuses, that led to lifelong physical disabilities, he refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. In 1982, John McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a congressman from Arizona, where he served two terms, until he became a Senator in 1987.