Editorial: A life well-lived
Editor’s note: Editoral Board members Renee Campbell and Sheli Steele were not able to attend this week’s board meeting. In their absence, Craig Press Office Manager KayCee Goncalves contributed to the development of this position.
It’s not easy to nail down an objective definition for the phrase “a life well-lived,” because the concept, by its very nature, is subjective. But an objective definition of the phrase is perhaps unnecessary, since most of us intuitively recognize such a life when we see one.
A life well-lived is a life that demonstrates integrity, courage, honesty, and compassion, and a steadfast, practical adherence to the core principles one professes to believe.
In our view, Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday only four days shy of his 82nd birthday, personified these principles.
Politically speaking, there are many positions people can — and do — take with regard to McCain’s more-than 30 years service in the United States Senate. We will not comment on these positions or their respective merits; our agreement or disagreement with another person’s political stances has no bearing on that person’s character, because character is not about politics: It’s about integrity and values; it’s about standing up for principles when it would be easier and more convenient to remain seated.
McCain was never one to remain seated, and his dedication to this nation he so deeply loved cost him far more than ease or convenience.
As a U.S. Navy combat pilot during the Vietnam War, McCain was shot down and captured on a bombing mission near Hanoi in October, 1967, then held as a prisoner of war at Hỏa Lò Prison — nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs.
There, he was to spend the next five-and-a-half years of his life, including two years in solitary confinement, despite being offered — and declining — early release some six months after his capture. Standing on principle, McCain refused the repatriation offer in accordance with the POWs’ “first in, first out” doctrine: He would only accept the offer if every man captured before him was released, as well.
He paid a steep price for this choice. For the next five years, he was beaten, starved, tortured, and humiliated, no doubt suffering pain and degradation few of us could ever imagine and none of us would ever wish to.
He was finally released March 14, 1973, but his combat injuries and subsequent torture left him with a host of physical challenges, including the inability to raise either arm more than 80 degrees from vertical.
For his heroic actions as a POW, McCain was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, a Navy Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart.
But McCain arrived home with more than permanent disabilities and a case full of medals.
“In prison, I fell in love with my country,” he wrote in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers,” “I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans enjoyed and took for granted. It wasn’t until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her.”
He turned that love into a lifetime of service to his country.
In 1986, he was elected U.S. senator for the state of Arizona, an office he held until his death. And, though the correctness of his political positions may be reasonably debated, his adherence to principle and his honest desire to do what he believed was right for the nation can hardly be impeached.
In the Senate, he was known as “the Maverick,” for his adherence to principle, even when such adherence meant crossing party lines. This is evidenced by the fact that the two men he specifically requested deliver the eulogies at his funeral are George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the same two men who defeated him in his bids for the White House.
When a person is honored by political friend and political foe alike, it is a good indication that person has lived an honorable life. We feel Sen. John McCain lived such a life, and we salute his lifetime of service to the United States of America.
We close with a portion of McCain’s farewell statement to the nation he so honorably served for so many years.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties, we believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit, we never surrender, we never hide from history, we make history. Farewell fellow Americans. God bless you and God bless America.”
Farewell to you, Sen. McCain.
We will never forget your service and your sacrifice.
Imagine that there’s a town next to a raging river, with a waterfall just five minutes downstream. One day, the residents of this town notice people caught in the river and many are going right over the waterfall’s edge. What can the townspeople do to save these people?