Only yesterday, the nation received word that Senator John McCain, after a long battle with cancer, had decided to discontinue treatment. Unfortunately, the news that so many of us had hoped to avoid hearing, just broke. Senator McCain has passed away at the age of 81.
In reflecting upon this American icon’s legacy, one has occasion to herald a life marked by steadfast service. Whether you agreed with his ideology—be it his conservatism or even his hawkishness—or could forgive the flaws that plague us all, it cannot be argued, honestly or credibly, that he wantonly sacrificed patriotism and honor at the altars of politics and indecency.
In remembering this remarkable man, it’s important to peer through one of the most illuminating windows into who John McCain fundamentally was. And his conduct on one seemingly obscure day in 2008 says all a person needs to know about his character.
Amid a torrent of unhinged populism, and against a tide of intolerance, McCain—to the detriment of his own presidential aspirations—forcefully and without hesitation, rebuked the worst sentiments our society had on offer. He did this not in the service of a close friend or ally, but in defense of his political opponent, in defense of the virtues that truly define America.
Whether we realize it at this moment or not, we will all miss such a giant of a man. We’ll miss a statesman so bound by duty that he unflinchingly-shed his blood, sweat, and tears, to safeguard his nation’s wellbeing. We’ll miss his jaw-dropping bluntness, his unwavering dedication to principle, and his unrelenting selflessness.
Tonight, the light of righteousness has been dimmed. We’ve lost a beacon of consistency in a world that is anything but. We’ve lost a leader who epitomized conviction and dignity during an era in which faithful devotion to one’s ideals has become a rarity. And while our hearts are burdened with loss, history records a life well-lived, it records the story of a profile in courage.
Godspeed Senator McCain, and to invoke the farewell of mariners, “fair winds and following seas, and long may your big jib draw”.
(Featured image “John McCain’s Official Senate Portrait, 111th Congress“, by unknown photographer, as the work of a government employee the image is in the public domain.)