Why we should all take John McCain’s Speech to Heart

Written by Chad Echakowitz

When I woke up this morning, I was not ready to be flummoxed by Senator John McCain. When John McCain ran for President in 2008 he said some things that I found disagreeable to say the least. So when I heard the news that he had made a “heartfelt speech” in the Senate yesterday following his return from a hiatus due to his recent diagnosis with brain cancer, I thought it was going to be a sympathy plea in favour of the Republican agenda. I was wrong.

The following were words I thought I would never say: John McCain’s speech was amazing. Everything he said was correct. It wasn’t a speech filled with prejudice or slander but rather a plea for a return to true democratic values, imploring opposing sides to work together to achieve a better future for all. It was beautiful.

As the decade has progressed, we’ve seen more and more division between opposing sides, not just in the United States but all over the world. It’s an “us” against “them” mentality, with no party wishing to co-operate with the other. We have seen it recently in the United Kingdom, with the hung Parliament between the Conservatives and Labour parties. Back in the U.S, the Democrats in the U.S have been slated recently for their focus on negating Trump, and not focusing on their own policies and what they will bring to the table if elected.

This is why Senator John McCain’s speech is so important for all of us. Whether you’re a Liberal, a Democrat, a Republican, a Conservative, a Labour, it does not matter. We need to start working together. The world is so much smaller now and everyone can know almost everything about anyone else. We all have a collected stake in the future of the human race and we need to work together as one collective to keep the human race going.

Below is a transcript of the more pertinent parts of Senator McCain’s speech. I want you to apply what he has said to your own country. Then you’ll see how important this speech is. Even if you don’t agree with his policies, or the Republican policies in general, just read it with no bias. I reckon you’ll be pleasantly moved.

…I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history. True Statesmen, giants of American politics, that come from both parties and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict; they held different views on the issues of the day and they often had very serious disagreements about how to serve the national interest. But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the senate discharged its Constitutional responsibilities effectively.  Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of the Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad co-operation to function well at all.

The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and defend her from her adversaries. That principal mindset and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today. I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous years either. But I’m sure there’s been times when it was and I was privileged to witnesse some of those occasions. Our deliberations today, not just our debates but the exercise of all of our responsibilities… are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled but they are more partisan, more tribal, more of the time than at any time that I can remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful but I think we’d all agree, they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

Both sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of “who shot first?” to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline, either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it, certainly I have. Sometimes I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes I’ve made it harder to find common ground, because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes I wanted to win more for the sake of winning, than to achieve a contested policy.

Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But its usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours. Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

Our system does not depend on our nobility; it accounts for our imperfections, and gives us an order to our individual strivings, that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than “winning”, even when we must give a little to get a little, even when our efforts manage just three yards in a cloud of dust while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to “triumph”.  I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to co-operate, on our dependence on each other, to learn how to trust each other again, and by so doing, better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loud-mouths on the radio, television and the Internet; to hell with them! They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood. Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides: mandating legislation from the top-down, without any support from the other side, with all the Parliamentary maneuvers that requires, we are getting nothing done, my friends, we are getting nothing done…

…What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting done much apart. I don’t think any of us feel very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and help protect the American people. The Senate is capable of that; we know that, we’ve seen it before…

This is a message the world has been waiting for. Let us return to Democracy, of working together for the good of everyone, not just our own political agendas. This speech highlights the difference between politics and democracy. Thank you Senator McCain. Thank you.