7 Things I Learned About Leadership From John McCain

7 Things I Learned About Leadership From John McCain September 2, 2018

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.

The casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is carried out of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, Saturday, after a memorial service, as Cindy McCain is escorted by her son Jimmy McCain and other family members.

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.

Obama said:

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.

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  • mstimson

    John McCain, Barrack Obama, and George Bush oh my! Add to that the Clinton’s and I can’t think of a group of people who have done more in this world to destroy freedom, enslave people, incite and foment war and bring about the demise of the USA. Leadership? Well, I recommend a bit further research into the lives of these individuals. Do you not find it even a bit odd that the MSM, who sought to destroy McCain when he ran against Obama, now can find no end to their praise of this treasonous man. Do a little research and find out about the real life of this terrible man. Ask, how did he acquire so much wealth by merely being a senator? Yes, most of them do this, but that should be a warning about how corrupt our system has become, not that these are noble leaders who can teach us anything about leadership.

  • mstimson

    Here’s an example that just came out this morning where the truth is told from Imam
    Tawhidi of how McCain was the Godfather of ISIS and Islamists. He was a very bad man.

    That photo and others taken show McCain with the Leaders of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Hidden by our MSM, he and Obama are the main support for financing and supplying ISIS. What, do you think those plane loads of untraceable cash that Obama sent to terrorist Iran was for feeding the hungry and supporting LGBTQ rights?

  • eddantes56

    Ms. Christianson, it’s difficult to associate morality with John McCain. Ask his first wife, who was involved in a serious auto accident prior to his release from North Vietnam. When he returned and saw what she looked like and her limited mobility, he proceeded to cat around the town and then divorced her, marrying a rich young woman young enough to be his daughter one month after the divorce. We could thrown in the Keating affair and his cozy relationship with Russian billionaire, Deripaska.

    Do you really think that a man who calls the supporters of presidential candidate Trump “crazies”, is really taking the high ground and understands that you can respect people who disagree with you?

    You really need to dig into the facts and put the bromides on the shelf.

  • TomMars

    John McCain did not always perfectly live up to these principles, but the principles are true and should be aspired to. Principles should come first, then policies, then personalities. Our country has it backwards. People place the person and the policies they prefer, above the principles and character that matter. The principles he supported publicly usually seemed right, while the principles of his character were not always ideal, but matured. I often worried about his temperament and character before I voted for him in 2008, for the same reason I worry even more about the temperament and character of our current POTUS. Principles and character are joined together and matter more than the policies. The policies McCain supported in order to implement those principles usually made sense. His hatred of the policy of torture or anything like it was very personal and he helped convince me that it is not enough to focus on the objective–how we get to the objective can be even more important. How we “win” matters, and so does how we lose. Yet McCain could throw some elbows. Would I have taken him for president over Obama, Trump, or Clinton, yes, or most of our current national leaders, yes, but I think we need to start more carefully looking at these principles and requiring them, rather than electing politicians who try to buy us off with policy promises and their personalities, detached from character and principles. McCain’s death simply reminded us of how low we have fallen.

  • Abby Christianson

    This is a great example of FAKE NEWS! Holy Crap, that is so very clearly fake that I can’t even comment more. Man, you need to get to know Snopes.com