In one of the most politically divisive times in American history, Senator John McCain embodied what it meant to be a true American

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Senator McCain left behind a legacy of putting his "country first," after passing away on Saturday Aug. 25. (Carolyn Kaster, File/AP)

Senator McCain left behind a legacy of putting his “country first,” after passing away on Saturday Aug. 25. (Carolyn Kaster, File/AP)

TIME Magazine’s Philip Elliot called him an “American original” and an “icon.” By most Americans, he is remembered as one of our nation’s most renowned and even controversial contemporary politicians. After a long and intense battle with brain cancer, Arizona senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain passed away at 81 on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. Politicians from the left and right have been paying respects to McCain.

A decorated Army veteran, McCain volunteered to serve duty during the Vietnam War and was held captive at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” in North Vietnam, a prison with a reputation of deadliness and brutality. At times, McCain was at the brink of the death and received torturous beatings that caused permanent damage; he remained a prisoner of war there for five and a half years. Due to his family connections, he was offered freedom early on but refused to leave unless the rest of the POWs were set free along with him – just one of the countless circumstances under which McCain showed America that he would fight for its people and remain a loyal American until the end. In regards to the experience, he once said: “In many ways it was the most uplifting experience in my life, because I was privileged to serve in the company of heroes.” President Trump later said of McCain that he was “[not] a war hero, he is a war hero because he was captured; I like people that weren’t captured, I hate to tell you,” – fueling an intense spat between the two after McCain withdrew his endorsement of Trump in 2016 after audio leaked of an Access Hollywood tape where Trump used lewd language and bragged of groping women and became highly critical of the then-presidential nominee.

In 1982, after retiring from the military, McCain went on to immerse himself in politics and served six terms in the Senate. He was a remarkable politician who stuck true to his principles until the end of his long-fought battle with cancer, fearlessly traversing any political boundary that came his way. Time and time again, he proved that his campaign slogan for the epic 2008 presidential race – the one he lost against Barack Obama – to be genuine: he always put his “country first.”

Often clashing with party leaders such as President Ronald Reagan and most recently President Donald Trump, Senator McCain spearheaded revolutionary initiatives, such as the one he took upon himself in the 1980s to reform the campaign-finance system – this in and of itself put him at odds with the rest of the GOP, as was typical of McCain.

His bipartisan approach – one which would become a staple of his politics and his willingness to cross party lines – often laid the groundwork for transformative reforms such as the aforementioned campaign-finance reform and other bills in Congress. Even delving into foreign affairs, in the 1990s McCain teamed up with progressive Democrat John Kerry and had a large role in the process of normalizing relations with Vietnam.

Last year, McCain left perhaps his last and most impactful mark in Congress, casting a swaying vote against the repeal of Obamacare. Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Arizona Republican and fellow Trump critic, but who conversely voted to repeal Obamacare, stated that he “admired” McCain for casting such a decisive and unwavering vote, calling his vote “John through and through.” Hillary Clinton said that McCain “really understood in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be an American and how important it was for us to, yes, disagree and differ, but, at the end of the day, to come together, to work together, to trust each other to get things done.”

Truly, Senator John McCain not only embodied bipartisanship, most importantly, he embraced and represented what it meant to be a real American. His ideals and his vision lived on until the end – at times fearlessly crossing party lines and always seeking solutions for the good of the American people. There is no denying that John McCain served this country in ways that one could deem no less than American.


Daniela Paredes is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.paredes@uconn.edu.

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