WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, “USA Today” published the below op-ed by Jack McCain, McCain Institute trustee and son of the late Senator John McCain. In the piece, McCain discusses why keeping his father’s legacy alive during times of global crises and political divisiveness is critical.
See the op-ed below.
Four Years After My Father’s Death, His Legacy is More Important Than Ever.
By Jack McCain
August 29, 2022
Monday would have been the 86th birthday of my dad, John McCain. He spent his life fighting for causes larger than himself. The greatest of those was the fight for democracy. It has been four years since he passed away, but his legacy is more important than ever. With autocrats in Russia and China becoming more emboldened and trust in America’s political systems eroding, democracy is at a critical moment.
If Dad were here today, he would be outraged by Vladimir Putin’s power grab in Ukraine. I have no doubt he would be in Kyiv right now, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people, just as he did during the Maidan Square protests in 2013. “We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently,” he said at the time. Dad saw Putin for who he was: a KGB thug. He would be doing everything in his power to encourage the free nations of the world to rally behind Ukraine in defense of democracy.
Dad spent his four-decade career in public service working to advance the democratic ideals that he believed were essential to creating a more free, fair and just world. He condemned the brutal Maduro regime in Venezuela and the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in Taiwanese elections. He championed the Global Magnitsky Act to hold accountable human rights violators. And he firmly believed in open speech, a free press and fair elections.
Dad also strongly believed in the importance of finding common ground. I was always struck by his ability to put personal differences aside for the greater good. Perhaps the greatest example of this attribute relates to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. When I was 14, we went to the Hanoi Hilton where I witnessed this part of his life for the first time. The conditions were unimaginable. I still have a photo of myself, arms outstretched, touching both walls of a tiny cell. Yet, when I asked Dad about his experience, he held no malice in his heart about it. He spoke as though it was just a brief chapter in history, and he went on to help reconcile the United States with Vietnam.
Our adversaries want to weaken democracies around the world, and they seek to do so by dividing us. Dad addressed the threat of tribalism in his farewell address to the nation, but sadly, the political divide has only deepened since his passing. We must fight back. Dad said that any great cause could only be won when people from all sides work together.
I’m proud to sit on the board of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University, which works to protect and promote democracy, combat human trafficking, prevent hate and violent extremism, and build the next generation of leaders like my dad.
The McCain Institute’s Human Rights & Democracy program advances democracy and supports human rights defenders around the world. The program recently launched its Defending American Democracy series that examines the biggest issues facing America’s democracy – including the role of journalism, voting rights and political violence – and aims to find common ground between voters and elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
The fight to protect democracy is never-ending. Dad dedicated his entire life to it. He’s been gone four years now, but his legacy lives on and is more important than ever before. Let’s set aside our differences and unite behind the defense of democracy, a cause greater than ourselves.
Jack McCain, son of the late Senator John McCain, is a member of the McCain Institute at Arizona State University’s Board of Trustees.