An Honorable Man

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The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”

The Ultimate Measure of a Man    

            Oftentimes, many of us jump to conclusions and forget all about our primary school teachers, who first taught us to not “judge a book by its cover”. We tend to overlook the similarities we share with others, while embracing the fundamental differences thereof. However, reflecting back on the sentiments expressed by Dr. King, a “true neighbor”comes in many different forms, fashions and yes, even Colors.

            Over the years, our culture has taken pride in reverencing those who have fought for us who look like us. Yet, many times we overlook the truth that there are and have been decent and honorable individuals who do not share our skin-tone; but, have taken our burden of hardship as their own. Therefore, African-American News & Issues has chosen to pay homage to a man who took no thought in “risking his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others”,in the person of the late Senator John S. McCain.

           

The Honorable John S. McCain, III

            Some would say John Sidney McCain, III was born with a naval spoon in his mouth. It is no accident he would become one of the greatest war heroes of this era. He was birthed in Panama Canal Zone at the Coco Solo Naval Station. His father, John S. McCain, Jr.was a high-ranking Navy admiral and his grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr. was a four-star admiral in the United States Navy. Needless to state, McCain was reared on naval bases around the nation and overseas.

            After graduating from Episcopal High School in 1954, he enrolled in the United States Naval Academy where he graduated in 1958. Two years thereafter, he graduated from flight school. During this time, the Vietnam War was underway, a mission McCain voluntarily signed up for. While in Vietnam, he flew carrier-based attack planes as part of his combat against the rivals. Amid flying his aircraft, his jet was shot down in the summer of 1967. Though he escaped with his life, over 130 people lost theirs, because of the incident. By fall of that same year, McCain found himself captive in enemy territory during his 23rd air mission. His plane was once again shot down in North Vietnam, causing him serious injuries, including broken arms and a leg. For nearly six years, he remained a prisoner of war in Hoa Loa Prison and over half of that time was completed in solitary confinement.

            As a prisoner, McCain was brutally tortured, but he did not break. Even when his oppressors offered him an early release, due to gathering intelligence of his family’s service and dedication in the U.S. Navy, he declined. Sacrificing himself, McClain remained loyal to the military code of conduct and stayed in captivity until March 14, 1973. For his heroism, he earned the Silver and Bronze Stars, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. Undoubtedly, McCain experienced a wealth of injuries and physical limitations, however, he could not resist his burning desire to serve the country. Thus, he attempted to return to flight duty after less than a year of rehabilitative therapy. Due to the severe extent of the injuries he sustained as a POW, his volition was not enough to suffice his physical impairments. Hence, he was honorably discharged.

True Leadership Begins with Servitude

            Upon his release from the U.S. Navy, McCain pursued a career in politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, 1982 and then again, the next term, servicing the State of Arizona. With only four years’ experience as an official politician, McCain then won a seat in the U.S. Senate. In his early tenure in Congress he adopted the nickname of being a “Maverick”. He was known throughout his party (Republican), as one who challenged its orthodoxy.

            After being investigated by the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee in conjunction with being one of the “Keating Five”, McCain emerged victoriously and was cleared of charges. He was accused of interfering with federal regulators in the case of Charles H. Keating, Jr., who was charged and convicted for fraud. Nevertheless, the Senator continued in his office.

            During the 2000 presidential race, the Senator threw his hat in the ring as a candidate. He became front-runner to then-Governor George W. Bush. After winning several states, Bush dominated in the primaries. Ultimately, McCain suspended his campaign and endorsed Bush, who eventually won the seat of presidency. Even though he bowed out of the race gracefully, he remained extremely vocal in the major governing affairs of the country.

A Defining Moment

            Once former President Bush completed both terms in office, McCain decided to run for the office again. He emerged as the Republican nominee, with Sarah Palinof Alaska as his running mate. It was during the 2008 presidential race against then-SenatorBarack Obamaof Illinois, that McCain left a remarkable place in history in the lives of African-Americans around the country. Despite the typical politicking behavior, McCain stood up in defense of his opponent, at a time when it would have been more beneficial for him to jump on the bandwagon with naysayers.

            At a campaign rally, McCain rebuked one of his own supporters. A woman in the audience shared her opinion of distrust in Obama. She said, “I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.” McCain immediately corrected her. He responded by saying, “No ma’am, he is a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.” Perhaps, the most fascinating factor as it related to his statement, was that at that time he was trailing Obama in the polls. Therefore, his act of decency spoke volumes, because he could have chosen to assassinate Obama’s character, instead he stood up for right even against his own supporter.

            Though he did not win the presidential election, McCain still contributed and aided the former President whenever called upon. Furthermore, his level of respect for the former President was evident through his dying request of, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama serving as eulogists at his funeral.

A Legacy of Honor

            It is no secret Senator McCain was dedicated and committed to the service of this country, for he was pre-exposed to it through genetic inheritance. Just as his grandfather served the country until death, meeting his demise just a day after his return from serving in World War II; McCain was faithful to America even unto death himself.

            Last year, the Senator was diagnosed with brain cancer. Amidst treatment and therapy, he arrived on the U.S. Senate floor to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. There are scores and numerous instances where he has been a positive influence and leading ally for righteousness in the country. However, space will not allow us to notate every one of them.

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