Many in Arizona, Washington, D.C., and around the nation this week stopped to honor the life and service of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). The longtime senator, a Vietnam War hero and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, passed away on August 25 after a battle with brain cancer.
Thousands waited in scorching heat on Wednesday to pay their respects to the senator at the Arizona Capitol, and on Thursday a number of national, state, local, and tribal officials joined with McCain family and friends for a memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church. Among those present were former U.S. Vice Presidents Joe Biden, who offered the main tribute at the ceremony, and Dan Quayle.
Today, following a service at the U.S. Capitol that will include tributes from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda so that members of the public can pay their respects. On Saturday, a service featuring former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will be held at the Washington National Cathedral before McCain is laid to rest at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.
Last summer in a memorable speech to his colleagues on the Senate Floor, McCain called on them to right their ship:
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
He told them it was a privilege to serve with them and exhorted them further:
America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history…. What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.
Striking a similar note in his final letter to Arizonans and all Americans, McCain wrote, “’Fellow Americans’ — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil.”
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” he wrote. “Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
Senator John McCain concluded his letter, “Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you and God bless America.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: August 31, 2018