Making an appearance with family members in Meridian, Miss., John McCain delivered the first speech of his "Service to America" tour where he talked about his family and the impact his father and grandfather had on him, while also outlining the role of government as it relates to families.
"I was once a flight instructor here at the airfield named for my grandfather during my long past and misspent youth," McCain said on the campus of Mississippi State University with wife Cindy, daughter Meghan and mother Roberta McCain sitting on stage to his side.
McCain comes from generations of McCains born and raised in Carroll County, Miss., that date back to 1848. The airfield at the naval base is named after his grandfather, Adm. John "Slew" McCain.
McCain described the close relationship between his father and grandfather including last words spoken to his dad before his grandfather died. "Son, there is no greater thing than to die... for the country and principles that you believe in," McCain said.
One of McCain's claims to fame is his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, something he didn't like to discuss a lot before this campaign. His speech today explained that children learn from their parents and while it was not the happiest time of his life, he and fellow POWs are now using the experience as an example of inspiration for others.
Perhaps he didn't speak about it sooner because he learned from his father not to. "My father seldom spoke of my captivity to anyone outside the family, and never in public. He prayed on his knees every night for my safe return. He would spend holidays with the troops in Vietnam, near the DMZ. At the end of his visit, he would walk alone to the base perimeter, and look north toward the city where I was held," he said.
After discussing his family, he then connected the issue of family to address issues of his campaign.
"Government must be attentive to the impact of its policies on families so that it does not through inattention or arrogance make it harder for parents to have the resources to succeed in the greatest work of their lives – raising their children. And where government has a role to play, in education, in combating the threats to the security and happiness of children from online predators, in helping to make health care affordable and accessible to the least fortunate among us, it must do so urgently, effectively and wisely."
John McCain took it a step further to stand by his position to not raise taxes and his vow to control government spending. "Tax policy must not rob parents of the means to care for their children and provide them the opportunities their parents provided them. Government spending must not be squandered on things we do not need and can't afford, and which don't address a single American's concern for their family's security," he said.
On education, McCain said the government shouldn't just throw money at public education but should use choice and competition to reward good teachers and hold bad teachers accountable, helping parents prepare their children for the challenges and opportunities of the global economy.
Perhaps one of McCain's clearest policy proposals so far was also listed in his address today about job training programs for Americans who have lost jobs in industries that will not return. McCain proposes that community college programs be developed to re-train them to help them move back into the workforce with new marketable skills saying, "Our programs for displaced workers are antiquated, repetitive and ineffective."
McCain even took a jab at welfare saying it doesn't provide a sense of purpose and receiving it has a negative impact on families.
"Children learn as much from observation as instruction. The mother or father who has lost hope along with their job can unintentionally impart that hopelessness to their children. A welfare check can't give a parent a sense of purpose. And among the most important things children can inherit from their parents is a sense of purpose, and an aspiration to be part of something bigger than themselves," he said.
The overall theme of this tour besides reintroducing himself to America for the general election and highlighting his campaign policy ideas is to motivate people to participate in service to their country. He doesn't limit it to military service but leaves it open to any kind of service.
"That is the honor we earn and the love we give when we work and sacrifice with others for a cause greater than our self-interest. For me that cause has long been our country. I am a lucky, lucky man to have found it, and am forever grateful to those who showed me the way."