John McCain spent the morning at his alma mater, Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and after his prepared remarks about education and the impact his time there had on his life, he took questions from the students.
In response to one question, he explained that his greatest academic achievement was getting a perfect score on the Naval Academy entrance exams for American history. He admitted while he always knew he was destined to serve in the military because of his family's service, he did not have political ambitions until he returned from Vietnam.
McCain remains a history buff and speaks for hours on end with reporters on his bus about wars and other great moments in history. He is also an avid sports fan but claims to have been a mediocre athlete. Today he told students his best athletic performance was as a wrestler while at Episcopal High.
"My record in wrestling was pretty good, I won more than I lost." McCain also revealed that his picked the UNC Tarheels to win the NCAA basketball championship.
"I think Carolina will probably emerge the champion but I must tell you in interest of full disclosure, I've been in many of the office pools and never won a single one."
He referenced the school's honor code -- "I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal" -- numerous times. McCain said it was one of the most valuable things he took from the school. He tied the code to a story about his time as a prisoner of war where interrogators tried to force him to make statements about his country that would have been used as propaganda against the U.S.
"They would bring in a tape recorder after you've been through a difficult time and say just confess to your war crimes but nobody will know. When that happened to me I was reminded of our standards here and I responded, I will know."
McCain pointed out that he wasn't claiming to be perfect but strived to live up to standards set by people he admired. "If you remember anything I tell you today, I have been a very imperfect public servant," he said. "I've made more than my share of mistakes and I always continue to try to improve."
He credited English teacher and football coach William Ravenal with helping him to broadening his high school experience from a "rambunctious" student with a "chip on my shoulder" to a leader who could have compassion and forgiveness for others.
Telling the story of a football team member who broke a rule that qualified for expulsion, but McCain and his teammates with the leadership of their coach William Ravenal after discussion, decided to have compassion and grant the violator leniency. McCain and his team dropped the matter and young John McCain took a lesson from that experience.
"I doubt I will ever meet another person who had the impact on my life that my English teacher at Episcopal High School did. But I know there are many Americans who should teach and could influence children as beneficially as he did me. All children should have a teacher like I had, who they remember when they have children and grandchildren as one of the most fortunate relationships in their lives."
One student, who was not impressed by McCain's reminiscing about his past, asked McCain what the real motivation was behind his visit to Alexandria.
"I knew I should have cut this thing off. This meeting is over," he joked before explaining to her that he was visiting his old stomping grounds all over the country addressing challenges the country faces. "I hope attendance here was not compulsory," McCain quipped to the student.