John McCain: Remembering a political friend, foe and father

McCain memorial: Remembering a political friend, foe & father

A week of mourning will end later this afternoon, when Sen. John McCain is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis. It comes after a memorial Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, where he was honored by friend and foe alike.

Those who spoke came to the National Cathedral at Sen. McCain's request. They sat where he asked them to sit -- rivals often side-by-side.

McCain
From left: former President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, bow their heads in prayer at a memorial service for Sen. John McCain, at National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. AP

But as each ascended the pulpit, the words were theirs ... and a nation listened.

"The America of John McCain has no need to be 'made great' again, because America was always great," said his daughter, Meghan McCain, to applause. "We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served."

Meghan McCain says America "always great" in tribute to father

John McCain's tone, his tenor, and even his temper were celebrated by those who saw it all firsthand.

Former President Barack Obama said, "After all, what better way to have a last laugh than to have George and me say nice words about him to a national audience."

Former President George W. Bush said, "Back in the day he could frustrate me, and I know he'd say the same thing about me. But he also made me better."

Former President George W. Bush delivers an emotional eulogy at Sen. John McCain's memorial service

And that's the theme that kept returning – McCain as a principled leader. 

"So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small, and mean," said Mr. Obama. "It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.

"John called us on to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that."

Mr. Bush said, "One of his books ended with the words, 'And I moved on.' John has moved on. He would probably not want us to dwell on it, but we are better for his presence among us. The world is smaller for his departure, and we will remember him as he was – unwavering, undimmed, unequaled."

Mr. Obama added, "There are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power. There are some things that are worth risking everything for: principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding. At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt."

Former President Barack Obama honors Sen. John McCain