Establish Your Legacy With A Gift to the McCain Institute
The McCain Institute continues John McCain’s proud legacy by fighting for democracy, human dignity, and security and for a world that is free, safe, and just for all people. Our unique power to convene leaders across the global political spectrum enables us to make a real impact on the world’s most pressing issues.
Join us in these efforts and link your own legacy with that of the McCain family by giving a gift that will make a lasting difference for future generations. Explore asset-focused, tax-efficient giving solutions to suit your individual needs, including wills, living trusts, and beneficiary designations. Your support helps ensure the future of the McCain Institute.
Please contact the McCain Institute’s Senior Director of Development Anna Voloshin at [email protected] to learn more.
Preserving the Legacy of John McCain
Near the end of his life, Senator John McCain explained the perspective that informed his consideration of America’s proper role in world affairs. He wrote:
“I consider myself a realist. I have certainly seen my share of the world as it really is and not how I wish it to be. What I’ve learned is it’s foolish to view realism and idealism as incompatible or to consider our power and wealth as encumbered by the demands of justice, morality, and conscience. In the real world, as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality. By denying this experience, we deny the aspirations of billions of people and invite their enduring resentment.
“The benefits of promoting our values can be a long time coming. But they must always be a high priority.”
Human rights advocacy wasn’t naïve idealism to him. It was the truest kind of realism. He rejected the view that all that really matters in international relations is how governments treat each other. He didn’t separate the character of states from their conduct in the world. Governments that protect the rights of their citizens are more likely to play a peaceful, constructive role in world affairs. Governments that are unjust, that cheat, lie, steal and use violence against their own people, are more likely to do the same to other nations.
Senator McCain didn’t think human rights were our invention. But he did believe our fidelity to the right to life and liberty, to equal justice and the rule of law defined us and charged us with the special responsibility to champion human rights in all places, for all peoples, and at all times.
He believed those rights are universal.
“They exist above the state and beyond history. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another. They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be assailed, they can never be wrenched. That’s our creed.”
He lived his public and private life in service to that creed. Behind closed doors, he comforted the oppressed, and in the glare of media attention confronted their oppressors. He opposed our own government when he thought it had fallen short of its values, as was the case with mistreatment of detainees. He couldn’t abide bullies or resist an opportunity to fight the bad guys on behalf of the good guys.
He understood the world as it was, with all its corruption and cruelty. But he believed it a moral failure to accept injustice as the inescapable tragedy of our fallen nature. He was a fatalist but never a pessimist. He never believed the world couldn’t be made better or wasn’t worth trying to be made better, and he never lost hope or failed to offer hope that it would be made better. He knew hopefulness made every tragedy bearable and all progress possible. Hope made every beautiful thing in this world and stood as a rebuke to every bad thing.
So, you found him defending the dignity of his fellow man wherever it was denied. You found him year in and year out meeting with dissidents and freedom fighters from Belorussia to Iran. You found him in the Maidan and in Syria, in Cambodia, Myanmar and Russia, supporting and encouraging the people he admired above all others, the people who stood up against all odds to demand an end to tyranny.
You found him pushing, demanding, goading Western governments to support the forces of freedom in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. You found him defending the international order the West built that made possible the stunning advances of freedom, security, and prosperity in the world.
His last address to the Munich Security Council was meant to rally our allies to our defense of the world we made at a moment when many of them doubted our own commitment to it. To resounding applause, he urged us to:
“Take our own side in this fight. We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values: that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair — and that even though we will inevitably take losses and suffer setbacks, through it all, as long as people of goodwill and courage refuse to lose faith in the West, it will endure.”
Maybe the simplest way to describe Senator McCain’s example of statesmanship that is his legacy to the world is that its guiding principle was his belief that every living soul possessed dignity equal to his own. In the words of the poem that inspired his favorite novel, Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, he was a part of the main. He was involved in mankind. He knew the bell tolled for him. He answered the call and expects us to do the same.