On August 27, 2018, Senator John McCain’s former campaign manager Rick Davis, acting as a spokesperson for the McCain family, read aloud the text of the late senator’s final letter to the public. “These are John’s words,” he said. What follows is a transcription of what Davis read:
“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for 60 years, and especially my fellow Arizonians, thank you for the privilege of serving you, and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead.
I’ve tried to serve our country honorably. I’ve made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them. I’ve often observed that I am the luckiest person on Earth. I feel that way even now, as I prepare for the end of my life. I’ve loved my life, all of it. I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life in good or bad times for the best day of anybody else’s.
I owe this satisfaction to the love of my family. One man has never had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America to be connected to America’s causes: Liberty, equal justice, and respect for the dignity of all people brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth were not circumscribed, but are enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
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. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history, and we have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.
We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.
We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before, we always do.
Ten years ago I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.
Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit, we never surrender, we never hide from history. We make history. Farewell fellow Americans, God bless you, and God bless America.”
MEGHAN McCAINS EULOGY TO HER FATHER JOHN McCAIN
“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it.” When Ernest Hemingway’s Robert Jordan, at the close For Whom the Bell Tolls lies wounded, waiting for his last fight, these are among his final thoughts. My father had every reason to think the world was an awful place. My father had every reason to think the world was not worth fighting for. My father had every reason to think the world was worth leaving. He did not think any of those things. Like the hero of his favorite book, John McCain took the opposite view: You had to have a lot of luck to have had such a good life.
I am here before you today saying the words I have never wanted to say, giving the speech I have never wanted to give. Feeling the loss I have never wanted to feel. My father is gone, John Sidney McCain III was many things. He was a sailor, he was an aviator, he was a husband, he was a warrior, he was a prisoner, he was a hero, he was a congressman, he was a senator, he was nominee for president of the United States. These are all of the titles and roles of a life that’s been well-lived. They’re not the greatest of his titles nor the most important of his roles.
He was a great man. We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.
He was a great fire who burned bright. In the past few days, my family and I have heard from so many of those Americans who stood in the warmth and light of his fire and found it illuminated what’s best about them. We are grateful to them because they’re grateful to him. A few have resented that fire for the light it cast upon them for the truth it revealed about their character, but my father never cared what they thought and even that small number still have the opportunity as long as they draw breath to live up to the example of John McCain.
My father was a great man. He was a great warrior. He was a great American. I admired him for all of these things, but I love him because he was a great father. My father knew what it was like to grow up in the shadow of greatness, he did just as his father had done before him. He was the son of a great admiral who was also the son of a great admiral. When it came time for the third John Sidney McCain to be a man, he had no choice but to walk in the same path. He had to become a sailor. He had to go to war. He had to have his shot at becoming a great admiral as they also had done. The past of his father and grandfather led my father to the Hanoi Hilton. This is where all of the biography, campaign literature say he showed his character, his patriotism, his faith, his endurance in the worst of possible circumstances. This is where we learned who John McCain truly was. And all is very true except for the last part.
Today I want to share with you where I found out who John McCain truly was and wasn’t in the Hilton. It wasn’t in the cockpit of a fast and lethal fighter jet or on the campaign trail. John McCain was in all those places, but the best of him was somewhere else, the best of John McCain, the greatest of his titles and the most important of his roles was as a father.
Imagine the warrior the night of the skies gently carrying his little girl to bed. Imagine the dashing aviator who took his aircraft, hurdling off pitching decks in the South China Seas, kissing the hurt when I fell and skinned my knee. Imagine the distinguished statesman who counseled presidents singing with his girl in Oak Creek during a rainstorm to singing in the rain. Imagine the senator fierce conscience of the nation’s best self taking his 14-year-old daughter out of school because he believed I would learn more about America at the town halls he held across the country. Imagine the loyal veteran with his eyes shining with happiness as he gave blessing for his grown daughter’s marriage.
You all have to imagine that. I don’t have to because I lived it all. I know who he was. I know what defined him. I got to see it every single day of my blessed life.
John McCain was not defined by prison, by the Navy, by the Senate, by the Republican Party or by any single one of the deeds in his absolutely extraordinary life. John McCain was defined by love.
Several of you in the pews that crossed swords with him or found yourselves on the receiving end of his famous temper or were at a cross purpose to him on anything, are doing your best to stay stone faced. Don’t. You know full well if John McCain were in your shoes today, he would be using some salty word while my mother jabbed him in the arm in embarrassment. He would look back at her and grumble, maybe stop talking, but he would keep grinning. She was the only one who could do that.
On their first date when he still did not know what sort of woman she was, he recited a poem called The Cremation of Sam McGee about an Alaskan prospector who welcomed his cremation as the only way to get warm in the icy north. “Strange things done in the midnight sun. The arctic trails have secret tales that would make your blood run cold.” He learned it in Hanoi. A prisoner rapped it out in code over and over during years of captivity. My father knew if she would sit through that, appreciate the dark humor that had seen him through so many years of imprisonment, she might sit through a lifetime with him as well, and she did.
John McCain was defined by love. This love of my father for my mother was the most fierce and lasting of them all, Mom. Let me tell you what love meant to John McCain and to me.
As much as he comforts, he was endlessly present for us, and though we did not always understand it, he was always teaching. He didn’t expect us to be like him. His worldly achievement was to be better than him. Armed with his wisdom, informed by his experiences, long before we were old enough to assemble our own. As a girl I didn’t appreciate what I most fully appreciate now; how he suffered and how he bore it with a stoic silence that was once the mark of an American man. I came to appreciate it first when he demanded it of me. I was a small girl, thrown from a horse and crying from a busted collarbone. My dad picked me up. He took me to the doctor, he got me all fixed up. Then he immediately took me back home and made me get back on the same horse. I was furious at him as a child, but how I love him for it now.
My father knew pain and suffering with an intimacy and immediacy most of us are blessed never to have endured. He was shot down, he was crippled, he was beaten, starved, tortured and humiliated. That pain never left him. The cruelty of his Communist captors ensured he would never raise his arms above his head for the rest of his life, yet he survived, yet he endured. Yet he triumphed. And there was this man who had been through all that with a little girl that didn’t want to get back on her horse.
In her eulogy to her father Senator John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain said in part “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. … The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.”
Meghan McCain also added the sentence “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great” and the line was met with immediate loud applause.
I seriously doubt if Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son in law Jared Cushner, who were in attendance, clapped.
John McCain, thank you for your service to this great country of ours.
Vija Con Dios Senator McCain.