You know that John McCain passed away last week. A couple days ago was his funeral service in Washington DC. I listened to it, and want to share some great things I learned. Needless to say, I have a new hero and it’s John McCain.
Several years ago, when he ran for President, I voted for him. I remember that I was a registered Democrat living in Philadelphia at the time. Everyone was voting for Obama in his second term, and I had literally every friend encouraging me to vote for him. But something about McCain and his passion for what he believed resonated with me.
As I listened to his funeral, the eulogy’s that were given showed me different sides of this senator. I’d like to share a few things that I want to see in more of the men and women in public office. I think if we could be more like McCain in several ways, our government would be better.
1- Focus on the morality of the issue, not whether the idea came from your team or not.
I don’t think there is anything more aggravating than these guys in Washington (or anywhere) who are “Party Men”. The guys who want their Party in power no matter what, because somehow their party is the only one who is right. Why must we be divided? We are all Americans. And we all know right from wrong. So why can’t we work together?
2- You can have friends on both sides of the political spectrum.
I didn’t expect it, but both former president George Bush and former president Barack Obama both gave eulogy’s for John McCain. What a cool thing it was to see how each of them saw him. I want to share my favorite parts of both of their speeches.
Obama even told about some personal moments with McCain.
We didn’t advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency, John would come over to the White House and we’d just sit and talk in the Oval Office, just the two of us. And we’d talk about policy and we’d talk about family and we’d talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn’t go away during these private conversations. Those were real and they were often deep.
But we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights. And we laughed with each other. And we learned from each other. And we never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other man’s patriotism, or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.
3- Be honest, no matter what.
George Bush said:
(John) was honest, no matter whom it offended. Presidents were not spared. (Laughter.)
He was honorable – always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings.
He loved freedom, with the passion of a man who knew its absence.
4- We are all people, and we all matter.
George Bush continued:
He respected the dignity inherent in every life – a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators.
Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy – to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places.
… John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist: We are better than this. America is better than this.
5- We need to take the high road. And despicable political games are beneath a leader of true character.
Barack Obama said:
(John) understood that some principles transcend politics, that some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values. John cared about the institutions of self-government, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law, separation of powers, even the arcane rules and procedures of the Senate.
He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. They give shape and order to our common life, even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.
6- It’s OK to disagree. It doesn’t make you a bad American.
Barack Obama continued:
John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work.
That’s why he was willing to buck his own party at times, occasionally work across the aisle on campaign-finance reform and immigration reform. That’s why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact that it earned him some good coverage didn’t hurt either. …
7- Taking the high road is always a good idea.
So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.
“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today.” What better way to honor John McCain’s life of service than, as best we can, follow his example.
I am grateful for the eulogy’s given for John McCain, because it helped me get to know a man I respected better. And it taught me what a real leader looks like. That is a blessing I didn’t expect. That there are more men of honor in politics than I believed. I hope we have more men like John McCain in the future.