John McCain, the six term Senator from the State of Arizona and the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States, passed away Saturday night after fighting degenerative brain cancer for the past year. He was 81 years old.
McCain was known as a fighter and over the years became the embodiment of the resilience that has come to define the American character. Throughout his military and political careers, McCain sought to protect and uphold the Constitution and the principles for which it stands
As the third generation of his family to serve in the armed forces, McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and held hostage by North Vietnamese soldiers for over five years. As a prisoner of war, his captors offered to release McCain in a public relations strategy to demoralize the American front. McCain, injured from the plane crash, refused to be let go unless all other POW’s who were captured before him were set free as well. When offered the promise of freedom, he relinquished it in the name of brotherhood. McCain would later say that it was in the darkness of solitary confinement where he truly came to love his nation and would propel him to continue to fight, albeit through different means.
During his thirty one years as a United States Senator, McCain always highlighted America's uniqueness in world history. At a time when it was easier to condemn the foundations of our government in the name of political gain, McCain was always the steady voice of principle who was quick to remind his colleagues of America's greatness. The Senator consistently demonstrated through both words and actions the love he had for this country and why it was worthy of protection. In his first speech on the Senate Floor after receiving his cancer diagnosis he said the following:
“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.
Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth.
We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.”
With the passing of Senator McCain, a towering figure in American politics hands the torch off to the next generation. Few men in the political arena have been as tested, and fewer still had the tenacity and courage to rise above the challenges. Although he did have his vices, McCain’s virtues made him the a giant among men. He was a man who willingly served in an unpopular war, defended his opponent for the presidency from conspiracies concocted by his own supporters, and stood up against his own party many times in the name of compromise. His signature resilience and patriotism, demonstrated in both the halls of Congress and the prisons of North Vietnam, serve as inspiration as we now take up the flame of liberty and continue this great experiment in self-government.