Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain, eulogized her father on Saturday at a memorial service in Washington. Meghan McCain took a swipe at President Donald Trump, though she did not name him, in an emotional tribute that focused on her father’s legacy in the military, in public service and in a family steeped in both.
Read the full Meghan McCain speech below:
“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
When Ernest Hemingway’s Robert Jordan, at the close For Whom the Bell Tolls, lies wounded and waiting for his last fight, these are among his final thoughts.
My father had every reason to think the world was an awful place. My father had every reason to think the world was not worth fighting for. My father had every reason to think the world was worth leaving. He did not think any of those things. Like the hero of his favorite book, John McCain took the opposite view. You had to have a lot of luck to have had such a good life.
I am here before you today saying the words I have never wanted to say, giving the speech I have never wanted to give, feeling the loss I have never wanted to feel.
My father is gone.
John Sidney McCain III was many things. He was a sailor. He was an aviator, he was a husband, he was a warrior, he was a prisoner, he was a hero, he was a congressman, he was a senator. He was a nominee for the president of the United States.
These are all the titles and the roles of a life that has been well lived. But they are not the greatest of his titles nor the most important of his roles.
He was a great man. We gather here to mourn the passing of America greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly. Nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.
He was a great fire who burned bright. In a past few days my family and I have heard from so many of those Americans who stood in the warmth and light of his fire and found it illuminated what is best about them. We are grateful to them because they are grateful to him. A few have resented that fire, for the light it cast upon them, for the truth it revealed about their character.
But my father never cared what they thought and even that small number still have the opportunity, as long as they draw breath, to live up to the example of John McCain. My father was a great man. He was a great warrior. He was a great American.
I admired him for all of these things, but I love him because he was a great father. My father knew what it was like to grow up in the shadow of greatness. He did just as his father had done before him.
He was the son of a great admiral who was also the son of a great admiral. And when it came time for the third John Sidney McCain to become a man, he had no choice, but in his own eyes to walk in those exact same paths. He had to become a sailor. He had to go to war. He had to have his shot at becoming a great admiral as they also had done.
The paths of his father and grandfather led my father directly to the harrowing hell of the Hanoi Hilton. This is the public legend that is John McCain. This is where all the biographies, the campaign literature and public remembrances say he showed his character, his patriotism, his faith and his endurance in the worst of possible circumstances. This is where we learned who John McCain truly was.
All of that is very true, except for the last part. Today, I want to share with you where I found out who John McCain truly was. It wasn’t in the Hanoi Hilton. It wasn’t in the cockpit of a fast and legal fighter jet. It wasn’t on the high seas or the campaign trail. John McCain was in all of those places, but the best of him was somewhere else. The best of John McCain, the greatest of his titles and most important of his roles was as a father.
Imagine the warrior the night of the skies gently carrying his little girl to bed. Imagine the dashing aviator who took his aircraft hurdling off pitching decks in the South China seas kissing the hurt when I fell and skinned my knee. Imagine the distinguished statesman who counselled presidents and the powerful singing with his little girl in Oak Creek during a rainstorm to singing in the rain. Imagine the senator, fierce conscious of the nation’s best self, taking his 14-year-old daughter out of school because he believed that I would learn more about America at the town halls he held across the country. Imagine the elderly veteran of war in government whose wisdom and courage were sought by the most distinguished men of our time with his eyes shining with happiness as he gave blessing for his grown daughter’s marriage.
You all have to imagine that. I don’t have to because I lived it all. I know who he was. I know what defined him. I got to see it every single day of my blessed life.
John McCain was not defined by prison, by the Navy, by the senate, by the Republican Party or by any single one of the deeds in his absolutely extraordinary life.
John McCain was defined by love.
Several of you out there in the pews who cross swords with him, or found yourselves on the receiving end of his famous temper, or were at a cross purposes to him on nearly anything, are right at this moment doing you’re best to stay stone faced.
You know full well that if John McCain were in your shoes here today, he would be using some salty word he used in the Navy while my mother jabbed him in the arm in embarrassment. He would look back at her and grumble and maybe stop talking. But he would keep grinning. She was the only one who could do that.
On their first date, when he still did not know what sort of woman she was, he recited a Robert Service poem to her called The Cremation of Sam McGee about an Alaskan prospector who welcomes his cremation as the only way to get warm in the icy north.
“There are strange things done in the midnight son by the men who moil for gold. The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold.”
He had learned it in Hanoi. A prisoner in the next cell had wrapped it out in code over and over again during the long years of captivity.
My father figured if Cindy Lou Hensley would sit through that and appreciate the dark humor that had seen him through so many years of cruel imprisonment, she just might sit through a lifetime with him as well. And she did.