John McCain and the Refusal to Demonize
John McCain – former US Senator from Arizona, recently passed away. A remarkable character. His institution was the US Senate. He was a master of knowing how the institution worked and had a huge respect for what the Senate, as an institution meant for American democracy. He knew it mattered more than his ego. He was truly one of the great public citizens of our time.
There are many things I could say about him, but there is thing in particular that needs to be highlighted: his refusal to demonize those with whom he differed. McCain was opinionated and deeply engaged in the defining issues of his day. These things mattered to him. And he differed and often differed with those within his own party and, of course, those on the other side – the other political party. And he had no problem feeling that those with whom he differed were not being wise and they were not truly concerned for the welfare of the American people. And he could let them know this. But, when all was said and done, they were his colleagues.
Nothing so demonstrated this as his invitation to George W. Bush – who had defeated him for the Republican nomination for the presidency – and Barack Obama, who defeated him for the presidency when he was the nominee – to be the two key speakers at his memorial service. These were two men with whom he had differed and differed deeply. It had to have stung to be defeated not once but twice and then to be in the Senate while down Pennsylvania Ave at the Whitehouse they were enacting policies and making decisions that he would have found deeply disturbing.
But, he did not demonize them. They were first colleagues who in the end he held in high esteem.
Our organizations need this quality of engagement – women and men who can ardently argue for a particular cause or issue and then, whether they vote in the majority or the minority, sustain a grace and respect for those with whom they differ