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OP-ED: Here’s How to Keep John McCain’s Legacy Alive

America lost a hero on Saturday with Senator John McCain’s passing at the age of 81. The six-term Republican U.S. senator disclosed in July 2017 his diagnosis of a deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Senator McCain served Arizona for nearly 32 years on Capitol Hill after suffering more than five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War before becoming the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

Senator McCain believed in investing in future generations; he took the time to speak multiple times at my alma mater, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. During his last address there, he told our community, “There is nothing greater than serving a cause greater than your own self-interest.” Indeed, he lived this mantra until the very end.

On Capitol Hill, some of Senator McCain’s colleagues say they plan to introduce a resolution renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after him. This would be a fitting tribute. My Bold TV co-anchor Clay Aiken tweeted out a creative idea that would help memorialize Senator McCain in an Arizona mural.

As a conservative who didn’t vote for then-candidate Donald Trump but now supports many of his policies and hopes he’ll get re-elected in 2020, I was sad to see that Senator McCain didn’t come on board because both men wanted to save Western civilization. Each man desired the same thing but had different pathways to get there, and each man had their own larger-than-life maverick personality preventing reconciliation.
Senator McCain thought that preserving NATO, for example, would help us preserve post-WWII global order, stability and peace. I believe that President Trump would agree! Yet President Trump wants to preserve it by making our fellow NATO countries step up and shoulder more responsibility—including paying their agreed-upon share of GDP defense spend. Senator McCain wanted Trump to speak with greater respect to our allies. Each man had valid points, and both men firmly believe in American Exceptionalism. In many ways, they just kept talking past each other.
I was disappointed to see that as he was signing the bill into law, President Trump didn’t honor Senator McCain by name as the president spoke about the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. Last year, I was also disappointed that in a pivotal move, Senator McCain rejected a personal appeal from President Trump and voted to keep Obamacare in place last year. This move seemed more about maintaining “regular order” and process than actual results.
The two men’s ongoing feud is a lesson for us all, a Shakespearean tragedy of human flaws getting in the way of healing and substance. To honor Senator McCain, let’s personal grudges behind us—that’s what Senator McCain did as he served overseas. He put greater good ahead of personal pain in the name of fighting for freedom and human prosperity.
Senator McCain gave us perhaps the best way to honor him: to live a life in service to our beloved country. He wrote as much in his recent book “The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations,” he co-authored with Mark Salter, his longtime aide. Senator McCain wrote:

“I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times. … The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. … I hope those who mourn my passing, and those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued success is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”

 

Photo Credit: John McCain by marcn

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