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Horowitz: McCain Speaks Powerfully—After He’s Gone

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


John McCain

The week of public events and memorials, culminating in this past Saturday’s moving memorial service at the National Cathedral, celebrating the life of Senator John McCain, served as a powerful explication of fundamental aspirational American values--and a strong rebuke for the president who fails to either live up to them or honor them.  And this was no accident.  Every detail was carefully planned by the Senator himself, who shrewdly figured out how to speak powerfully--even after he was gone-- for what can be best called the ‘American Creed.'

John McCain believed strongly in the fact that America is first and foremost a nation based on universal ideals and values--not one of 'blood and soil.  He strongly believed that what binds us together is contained in the aspirational words of the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   Our mutual dedication to these shared ideals, still imperfectly realized, in McCain’s view, is what not only brings us together; it is the source of our greatness. That is the America that John McCain served and sacrificed for and that he believed was endangered by the racially tinged divisiveness and reflexive dishonesty of Donald Trump.

As his daughter, Meghan proclaimed when eulogizing her father, "The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She's resourceful, confident, secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she's strong. America does not boast because she has no need to.”

Meghan McCain continued, sharply contrasting her father’s undeniable sacrifice for our nation with President Trump’s faux toughness: "We gather here to mourn the passing of American 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."

In less, but still pointed words, former President George W. Bush also provided an implicit contrast: “He loved freedom, with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life - a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power.  He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy – to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places.”

Former President Barack Obama eloquently summed up McCain’s vision of the nation: “[McCain]:saw this country as a place where anything is possible and an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way, There are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power, there are some things that are worth risking everything for, principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding.”

John McCain stood for and fought for a unifying creed--one that transcended party or ideology. That is what the weeklong celebration of his life powerfully communicated to a nation that desperately needed a reminder.  It is now up to the rest of us in a time when these values are truly threatened to live up to his example and serve a cause greater than ourselves.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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