Remembering John McCain, Observations Concerning Joe Lieberman’s Eulogy

By Dr. Phillip G. Henderson

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Joe Lieberman’s heartfelt eulogy at the National Cathedral service honoring Senator John McCain was poignant.  One had the sense that Lieberman had actually pierced the stern veneer of McCain to see the very human side of a man who had been a remarkable statesman.  Lieberman said, with great sincerity, “becoming John McCain’s friend is one of the great blessings of my life. Being asked to pay tribute to him today is one of the great honors.” The former Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate added: “There’s a special satisfaction that comes from serving a cause greater than yourself. I heard John say those words hundreds of times, particularly to young people . . . But for him we know they were not just words in a speech, they were the creed that he lived by.”

Lieberman’s description of what it was like going on fact-finding trips with Senator McCain in Bosnia or Iraq, or other overseas destinations, provided a vivid portrait of the hard-working U.S. Senator, who demanded the same intensity from his friends.  As Lieberman put it: “When you traveled with John, even with [Senator}Lindsey [Graham] along, the purpose was not to have fun. In fact, sometimes it seemed the purpose was just to survive the schedule he had organized. John traveled to get the most out of every day he possibly could and he did. And so did we who were privileged to know him. John traveled to learn so he could be a better senator. He traveled to represent America as best he could wherever we went, and he did. He traveled to support the men and women of our armed services, whether in war or at peace, wherever they were, and they in turn welcomed him in not just respect but awe as the hero John McCain was, is, and always will be.”

Possibly the most relevant part of Lieberman’s brilliant eulogy, at least with regard to my students at Catholic University, was his ability to capture McCain’s embodiment of the qualities of a statesman who sought bi-partisan solutions to the nation’s problems.  Lieberman illustrated this point beautifully, saying: “In 2008 when he was the Republican nominee for president, he had a far-out idea of asking a Democrat to be his running mate. Can you believe that? Let me explain it to you as he did. When he first talked to me about it I said ‘You know, John, I’m really honored, but I don’t see how you can do it. Even though I won my last election as an independent, I’m still a registered Democrat.’ And John’s response was direct and really ennobling. ‘That’s the point, Joe,’ he said with a certain impatience. ‘You’re a Democrat, I’m a Republican. We could give our country the bipartisan leadership it needs for a change.’” In these words, Lieberman eloquently captured the essence of John McCain.

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