On John McCain’s Legacy

EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

An honor guard carries the casket out after the memorial service for Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, USA, 01 September 2018. McCain died 25 August, 2018 from brain cancer at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, USA. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War, served two terms in the US House of Representatives, and was elected to five terms in the US Senate. McCain also ran for president twice, and was the Republican nominee in 2008.

On John McCain’s Legacy


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Senator John McCain’s character was one of strength, determination and a willingness to make the hard choice.  With his father and his grandfather as exemplary officers in the United States Navy, he followed their pattern of service by attending the Naval Academy and spending more than twenty years in military service.  He was a naval aviator in Vietnam and spent time as a prisoner of war for more than five years. Despite being offered an early release by the North Vietnamese for propaganda purposes, he refused to go before his fellow captives had been released and spent two more years as a prisoner of war.  Repeatedly resisting his captors’ attempts to use him as a puppet, he endured beatings and torture but refused to undermine his fellow soldiers.  After returning home to his family and recovering from his injuries, he did not take the easy route of retirement but continued his military duty.  By the time he retired from the military in 1981 he had a decorated service record including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

When he did retire from the Navy, McCain chose to serve his country through public office.  After experiences where he disagreed with leaders, he wanted to improve American policies. He ran for the US House of Representatives, where he served two terms. Then he ran for the Senate, where he was elected for six terms. Valuing ideals over partisanship, he crossed the aisle to work with Senator Russ Feingold and reformed campaign finance rules with the McCain-Feingold reform bill.  Striving for peace and improved relations, McCain sought reconciliation by pushing for normalization of US relations with Vietnam.

He actively supported President Reagan in his strong stance against Communism because McCain believes in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence that all mankind deserves representative government.  Putting the ideals of the Declaration intro practice around the world, he has served as chairman of the International Republican Institute since 1993.  His work on the International Republican Institute served to support developing democracies by helping political parties activate, pushing for verifiable election data, and encouraging governments to respond to their citizens. McCain has tried to improve the lives of others far beyond the American borders by encouraging democratic efforts worldwide.

After Sept 11, 2001 despite calls for vengeance from many other Americans, McCain was vocal regarding the treatment of prisoners. 

Having experienced the deprivation and torture of his POW days, he used his position to push for humane treatment, even though he was criticized for this by his own party. McCain has been valiant in trying to support the emergence of democratic governance around the globe and in supporting those who strive for better representation.  Sometimes called a “maverick”, McCain was famously bipartisan and has worked with many Democratic Senators such as Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Joe Lieberman, and Joe Biden because he believed more in the promise of America than in one political party over another.  He believed strongly in America’s role to be a “shining city on a hill” and wanted to see a Reagan-style leadership with America regaining the moral high ground and standing up against authoritarian governments around the world. 

His vision of America as a leader in world democracy and liberty has helped shaped the world for the better.

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