1 September 2018, Washingtoin Cathedral, Washington DC, USA
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, 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 nominee for President of the United States. These are all of the titles and roles of a life that's been well lived. They're not the greatest of his titles nor the most important of his roles.
He was a great man. We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.
He was a great fire who burned bright. In the 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's best about them. We are grateful to them because they're 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. When it came time for the third John Sidney McCain to be a man, he had no choice but to walk in the same path. 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 past of his father and grandfather led my father to the Hanoi Hilton. This is where all of the biography, campaign literature say he showed his character, his patriotism, his faith, his endurance in the worst of possible circumstances. This is where we learned who John McCain truly was. And all is very true except for the last part.
Today I want to share with you where I found out who John McCain truly was and wasn't in the Hilton. It wasn't in the cockpit of a fast and lethal fighter jet or on the campaign trail. John McCain was in all those places, but the best of him was somewhere else, the best of John McCain, the greatest of his titles and the most important of his roles was as a father.