The recent passing of John McCain gave us insight into the man he was, as well as the characteristics we look for in a leader. In Barack Obama’s and George Bush’s recent eulogies, we hear two politically opposed presidents celebrate and admire the personality traits that made McCain so well respected and loved. Two different individuals from vastly different political, social and personal experiences reflect on the universal personality characteristics that are essential for a meaningful life and successful life. Take a read with the knowledge that these are precisely the areas of child development that we help children with at TMH.
Largeness of Spirit
In the words of Obama, McCain possessed a “Largeness of Spirit”, always striving to “Be better and Do Better”. He is considered by many to be a national hero because of his dignity and perseverance, among many other admirable personality traits. He maintained an optimistic outlook and fair demeanor even though he had faced great adversity in his life as a soldier and prisoner of war. He was a great patriot who respected the dignity of every life and thought beyond his personal interests to consider those of his country first.
Friendship and a Community
Both Obama and Bush mentioned how much McCain valued friendship and community and that the rich authentic connections he made with those around him were instrumental to his success. McCain remained loyal to his friends and family, never letting fame or politics undermine the close bonds he shared with those he loved. Obama speaks of the competition between them during a previous presidential election. He notes the competition made him a better person and a better president and then shares that “One of life’s greatest gifts...was the friendship of John McCain”. At TMH, the word friend has such a special meaning and the value of friendship is fundamental to all the work we do.
Social and Emotional Capacity
McCain’s ability to relate to others, listen actively and show compassion and empathy were essential to his success both politically and personally. He was able to embrace diversity while simultaneously building community. He took the time to listen to and understand others’ point of view. He championed the underdog and believed deeply that diversity and the rule of law were essential to a healthy democracy. He was the rare politician, especially these days, who was able to see past differences along party lines in search of common ground, willing and available to hear the opinion of others in order to move the democracy forward. He was able to see the big picture for our country and the democracy.
A Mindful Zest for Life
McCain believed in living his life to the fullest, living each moment mindfully and with purpose. He remained in the moment—not dwelling on the past whether success or failure but focusing on the present and maintaining his best self. Despite his serious health complications and the other obstacles he faced, he remained honorable, courageous, fair and someone who felt responsible for those less fortunate and marginalized.
McCain embraced adversity—he welcomed the challenge. He never made excuses for why he couldn’t achieve his goals based on his health or any other challenges. He focused on his strengths, was grateful for the opportunities he was given and always remained hopeful, positive, and upbeat.
Sense of Humor
Both Bush and Obama point out he had a unique sense of humor that could be invoked to dissipate even the most tense of situations. Even though he may not have been especially funny (some may feel differently), he approached his life and love with a fine sense of humor. Life can be ironic, and that can be fun and funny. It’s worth the effort to find the humor in life, and appreciate your mate for his or hers, much like McCain did.
McCain had the ability to acknowledge a mistake and to take steps to remedy it. In sharp contrast to most politicians who duck, divert, slip and spin to avoid ever admitting a mistake, John McCain was honorable and honest. Accountability is essential in every walk of life—everything from politics to business and even interpersonal relations, as evidenced by the life and work of McCain.
Devotion to the Greater Good
John McCain showed us that there are some things bigger than party, money, fame, power or ambition. He fought for others every day of his life, whether he was wearing a uniform or standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate. As Obama shares, “Some things are worth risking everything for…. moral principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding.” This was the essence of John McCain’s message to our nation: that we must join together, shaped by our deepest values of liberty, equal justice and respect for the dignity of all people, hardened by unwavering courage and integrity, and step into the arena to fight for a greater cause.
McCain demonstrated all the social emotional values we hope to inspire in the children at the Meeting House. He exemplified how a mastery of relationship skills, social awareness, and self-awareness is critical for not only politics, but transferable to all walks of life.
To hear Obama’s complete eulogy, click here.
To listen Bush’s complete eulogy, click here.