Farewell to true patriot and American hero

To read the complete text of Sen. McCain’s farewell letter, click here

As an American, I always have admired the great strength and immense patriotism of Sen. John McCain.

As a journalist, I found new respect when he spoke clearly on the importance of our free press.

“We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital,” said McCain in 2008 when he sought the presidency. “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press.” Without it, he said, “we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”

Like many in public office, McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, sometimes had an adversarial relationship with reporters, debating issues with great vigor. Still, he remained respectful, valuing the role of the media as the fourth estate.

McCain battled brain cancer for more than a year before he died Aug. 25.

His love of life and of country was evident in the thought-provoking words he often shared. Among them was a reflection he shared, earlier in life, about the years he served as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“In prison, I fell in love with my country,” he said. “I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn’t until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.”

McCain spoke and voted as he believed, never afraid to reach across the aisle. That often generated some ire among fellow Republicans, but respect from Americans as a whole.

Here are a few other memorable words spoken by McCain:

“I’ve been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. But I have been her servant first, last and always. And I’ve never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn’t thank God for the privilege.”

“Fear is the opportunity for courage, not proof of cowardice.”

And now even in death, McCain is sharing moving words of patriotism. As his death became imminent, the senator prepared a powerful farewell statement that was read two days later by his spokesman Rick Davis.

“To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. … We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world,” he said, in part.

“We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. … if only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for satisfying ten lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.”

In reading his words, I can only hope that we all may live a life that, despite its difficulties and regrets, still can be full of love, comfort and peace.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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