• 75°

John McCain, an extraordinary gentleman

His life was the personification of duty, honor and love of America. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, John McCain taught us something about how to live until you die. Facing mortality, he never complained, but rather shared with the world how blessed he had been to live in a democracy that allowed him to be a public servant, in advancing what he perceived to be noble causes.

The world first took notice of the future senator when, as a pilot in the Vietnam War, his A-4 Skyhawk bomber plane was blasted out of the sky over Northern Vietnam in 1967. He was immediately ejected from the plane. The sheer force of the ejection broke his right leg and both arms, knocking him unconscious as he landed in a lake near Hanoi.

He was a Republican senator from Arizona, yet he was also highly regarded on the Democratic side of the aisle by political opponents, which included the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and even former president Barrack Obama.

McCain was in fact, an extraordinary gentleman and politician, in some instances, without caring about the political risks. Risks that some political pundits believed cost him the 2008 presidential election against Obama. In a town hall meeting in Minnesota, a woman took to the microphone and essentially lambasted Obama. When she called him an Arab, McCain took the microphone from the woman and corrected her by letting the audience know that Obama was in fact, “a decent, family man, and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about. He’s not.” This was classic McCain, not acquiescing to untruths to advance his campaign in the polls.

There were missteps, however, during his colorful career. In his 2000 bid for president against George W. Bush, McCain, while in South Carolina, endorsed the state flying the Confederate Flag over its capitol. He stated that it was a symbol of heritage for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War. Realizing very quickly, however, that he had made a terrible mistake, he later stated that his ancestors fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War but said, “They fought on the wrong side of American history. That, my friends, is how I personally feel about the Confederate battle flag.”

He was quickly attacked by many of his supporters who called him a traitor for vacillating on the issue of the flag. But McCain, was vigilant, maintaining his moral compass, which catapulted him during his career to become an extraordinary gentleman.