By MELISSA DANIELS and LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain expressed his deep gratitude and love of country in his final letter and implored Americans to put aside “tribal rivalries” and focus on what unites.
Rick Davis, former presidential campaign manager for McCain who is serving as a family spokesman, read the farewell message Monday at a press briefing in Phoenix.
In the statement, McCain reflected on the privilege of serving his country and said he tried to do so honorably. He also touched on today’s politics.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” McCain wrote. “Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
McCain died Saturday from an aggressive form of brain cancer. Plans taking shape called for McCain to lie in state Wednesday in the Arizona State Capitol on what would have been his 82nd birthday. A funeral will be conducted Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church with former Vice President Joe Biden speaking.
In Washington, McCain will lie in state Friday in the Capitol Rotunda with a formal ceremony and time for the public to pay respects. On Saturday, a procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and arrive for a funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to speak at the service.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute to John McCain on Monday by recalling their own legislative battles while echoing the late senator’s belief that there’s more that unites than divides Americans.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell says that while McCain served the state of Arizona in Congress, “he was America’s hero all along.”
He spoke near McCain’s desk in the Senate, which has been draped in black and adorned with white roses in his honor.
McConnell and McCain tangled over several issues, including McConnell’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which failed on McCain’s surprise “no” vote. McConnell says serving with McCain “was never a dull affair.”
McCain will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday.
A private funeral is planned for Sunday afternoon at the Naval Academy Chapel followed by a private burial at the academy cemetery.
McCain’s full letter:
My fellow Americans whom I have gratefully served for 60 years and especially my fellow Arizonians. Thank you for the privilege of serving you, and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead.
I’ve tried to serve our country honorably. I’ve made mistakes but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them. I’ve often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now, as I prepare for the end of my life. I’ve loved my life, all of it. I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life in good or bad times for the best day of anybody else’s.
I owe this satisfaction to the love of my family. One man has never had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America to be connected to America’s causes: Liberty, equal justice, and respect for the dignity of all people brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth were not circumscribed, but are enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
Fellow Americans, that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history, and we have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.
We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment, and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.
We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before, we always do.
Ten years ago I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.
Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit, we never surrender, we never hide from history. We make history. Farewell fellow Americans, God bless you, and God bless America.
President Donald Trump was not expected to attend any of the services.
McCain was a noted critic of Trump, and Trump’s response to McCain’s death has been closely watched.
The flag atop the White House flew at half-staff over the weekend in recognition of McCain’s death but was raised Monday and then lowered again amid criticism.
Trump said Monday afternoon that he respects the senator’s “service to our country” and signed a proclamation to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until his burial.
When asked about Trump’s response to McCain’s death after the flag was raised Monday, Davis said that the family is focusing on the outpouring of support from around the world instead of “what one person has done or said.”
“The entire focus of the McCain family is on John McCain,” Davis said. “There really is no room in the McCain family today to focus on anything but him.”
In Arizona, high-profile campaigns announced that they have suspended some activity this week.
McCain was just one of 11 U.S. senators in the state’s 116-year history, and on Tuesday, primary voters will decide the nominees in races across all levels of government. There’s also the sensitive question of who will succeed McCain.
Arizona law requires the governor of the state to name an appointee of the same political party who will serve until the next general election. Since the time to qualify for November’s election is past, the election would take place in 2020, with the winner filling out the remainder of McCain term until 2022.
Possible appointees whose names circulate among Arizona politicos include McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff Kirk Adams.
Throughout the weekend, Arizona politicos across all levels of government offered remembrances of McCain. Noting McCain’s death, several candidates, including Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who are expected to win their party’s races for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, on Sunday evening said they would suspend their campaigns on Wednesday and Thursday. Ducey, whose office is coordinating services at the Arizona State Capitol for McCain, will not attend any campaign events between now and when McCain is buried.
In Phoenix, a memorial outside McCain’s office drew James Olsen, who was on a business trip from Columbia, South Carolina.
“I’m all the way here. I need to pay my respects,” Olsen said.
Tributes poured in from around the globe. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English that McCain “was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country.” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said McCain’s support for the Jewish state “never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom.” And Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, called McCain “a tireless fighter for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country.”
McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the U.S. Naval Academy. A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.
“He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”And while he never made it to the presidency, in the Senate, he was the leader that would see a hot spot in the world and just say, we need to go there and stand up for that democracy.”
Kellerman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.