I’ve been attempting to stay positive in the aftermath of US Senator John S. McCain’s passing this week. Even though I’m melancholy, I take the late senator’s words in his farewell statement to heart. “I’ve loved my life, all of it. I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful,” McCain wrote. That type of reflection makes me appreciate the things that matter to me. Like so many out there, I forget to appreciate the good things in life. What with the rat race that we’re all in these days, it’s easy to focus on just getting through days. For that, I’m sad because it all goes quickly. In the blink of an eye, years pass and like the senator wrote, we all have our regrets.
One could argue or agree with how Senator McCain was on the issues throughout his lengthy career in the US Senate, but what was heartwarming was that he always attempted to find common ground. In the farewell letter, McCain wrote about how we become weak at times. He cited that patriotism can become confused with tribal rivalries – which in turn, sow the seeds of hatred and violence. We have seen that in recent years, which is troubling, but as the senator wrote, the US is strong and will overcome those difficulties like it has in the past.
Even though we might think that we’re lacking leaders with optimism, McCain proved the character trait not only existed within himself, but in others these days. Without naming names, there are scores of leaders who lead with optimism in many quarters. Perhaps we don’t hear much from those respected leaders these days, but ought to strive to shine the spotlight on them in our culture.
McCain admits that the US is filled with, “…325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals.” What we need to recognize is that we have more in common than we do not, but lately, we fail to see that fact. This is what we as a nation need to emphasize as we go forward. It’s been tough during these past three-plus years in our public discourse, but in his farewell statement McCain remains steadfast with his optimism. I love these words which comes towards the end: “Do not despair of our present difficulties.” I take those words as inspiration that we all can make this a far better place than we found it. The point it is, you don’t have to be a senator, president, actor, rock star or anyone famous to lead life with an optimistic spirit. All of us have that power to overcome tribalism, cynicism and hatred.
I saw Senator McCain in person in the early 2000s when he visited Atlanta on a book tour. Immediately I could tell that he not only loved his work, family and life, but he loved the interactions he had with the crowds. I will never forget that moment and Senator McCain is just another person who I find inspiring.