On Saturday, August 25, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) passed away. In his final letter to the nation, the former soldier and prisoner of war addressed the nation with the same integrity, courage, and valor that characterized his life of public service.
Addressing an increasingly polarized and fearful nation, the former presidential candidate gave his counsel. “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.”
Indeed, the senator’s farewell letter marks the end of an illustrious career in combat, politics, and civic life.
He was born in 1936, the son of naval officer, John McCain Sr. and Roberta McCain.
At the U.S. Naval Academy, McCain showed his leadership and integrity, standing up for other students who had suffered from bullying.
In 1958, McCain began his military career in the U.S. Navy, in which he would serve for over two decades. During the Vietnam War, McCain volunteered for a combat position, and ran numerous bombing raids in North Vietnamese territory. In 1967, on one of those raids, McCain was ejected from his plane and captured by the Vietnamese, who imprisoned him in the Hoa Lo Prison, then dubbed, the “Hanoi Hilton.”
During his time as a prisoner of war, McCain was regularly beaten, deprived of food, not given adequate medical care, subject to interrogations and other forms of torture.
He was held for five years, and only released in 1973.
McCain was made Naval Liason to the United States Senate in 1977, and retired from the military four years thereafter. His first political office was in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he won in 1982.
After serving in the House for four years, McCain ran for the Senate and won. He began his time in the Senate in 1987, and soon developed a reputation as a maverick, being willing to break with his own party on certain issues.
A staunch interventionist, McCain supported American military action in numerous countries, including Iraq. He was also a fiscal hawk, advocating for automatic spending cuts in the event of budget shortfalls.
His reputation as a maverick was certainly deserved. Ronald Brownstein, an editorial director at the Atlantic, wrote about his 2000 campaign for president, less well known than his 2008 campaign. Brownstein writes that “in his insurgent campaign that year against front-runner.