John McCain Parting Words From ‘The Restless Wave’
As colleagues and political rivals pay tribute to American hero John McCain, who died yesterday after fighting aggressive brain cancer, we reflect on his admirable legacy with his parting words.
“My fellow Americans. No association ever mattered more to me. We’re not always right. We’re impetuous and impatient and rush into things without knowing what we’re really doing. We argue over little differences endlessly and exaggerate them into lasting breaches. We can be selfish, and quick sometimes to shift the blame for our mistakes to others. But our country ‘tis of thee.‘ What great good we’ve done in the world, so much more good than harm. We served ourselves, of course, but we helped make others free, safe and prosperous because we weren’t threatened by other people’s liberty and success. We need each other. We need friends in the world, and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends, Humanity counts on us, and we ought to take measured pride in that. We have not been an island. We were ‘involved in mankind.‘
“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. We are citizens of a republic made of shared ideals forged in a new world to replace the tribal enmities that tormented the old one. Even in times of political turmoil such as these, we share that awesome heritage and the responsibility to embrace it. Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect, as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold, that all are created equal, and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all. Those rights inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be assailed, they can never be wrenched. I want to urge Americans, for as long as I can, to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.
“Then I would like to go back to our valley, and see the creek run after the rain, and here the cottonwoods whisper in the wind. I want to smell the rose-scented breeze and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to watch the hawks hunt from the sycamore. And then take my leave, bound for a place near my old friend Chuck Larson in the cemetery on the Severn, back where it began.”
“‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in [Ernest Hemingway’s] ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.‘ And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.
“I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.
“What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”