John McCain, the former presidential candidate and war hero who survived torture in Hanoi to serve three decades as a U.S. Senator, was also known for his colorful quotations. You can read some of the best John McCain quotes in this article about everything from courage to President Donald Trump.
McCain died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018, not long after his family announced that he was ceasing treatment for brain cancer. He was surrounded by his wife, Cindy, and his family when he died. His office released a statement, highlighting how McCain had served his country “faithfully for sixty years” at the time of his death.
John McCain was the son of an Admiral who hailed from a family with a long legacy of military tradition; McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, spent his entire life in public service, first serving in the Navy for 22 years (and spending more than five of those years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war). He served in Congress since 1982, became a U.S. Senator in 1987, and was the 2008 Republican nominee for president.
McCain’s death comes after the Arizona Republican revealed in July 2017 that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Specifically, McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is a particularly aggressive form of the cancer.
Here are some of the senator’s quotes from over the years. Many of his quotes come from his book Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir.
On Being a Prisoner of War & Courage
“In prison, I fell in love with my country. 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.”
“Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to act despite our fears.” (You can read more John McCain quotes here.)
On Being Americans First
“We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always. Let us argue our differences. But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.” McCain gave that quote at the Republican National Convention in 2004.
Defending Barack Obama at a Town Hall & Responding to a Teenage Democrat
USA Today recalls that a woman at a town hall meeting called Barack Obama an “Arab,” sparking a response from McCain, who retorted, “No, ma’am. No, ma’am. He’s 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. He’s not. Thank you.”
According to CNN, McCain showed similar respect for an opponent in this exchange in the 1980s with Mo Elleithee, a teenage Democratic campaign strategist.
Mo Elleithee: “I’m honored to meet you even though I disagree with you.”
McCain: “Well, I’m honored to represent you even though you disagree with me.”
McCain also once said: “Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”
Writing From North Vietnam
CNN recalls that this was the text of McCain’s message home while he was a POW in North Vietnam: “I would just like to tell my wife I’m, I’ll get well. I love her, and hope to see her soon. I appreciate if you will tell her.”
On the Nation’s Values
“Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity, and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three,” McCain said.
He also spoke about the news media, saying, “If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
On Donald Trump
McCain penned an op-ed in 2017 that criticized Trump, calling him a “president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”