As Americans prepared to head to the polls for the 2008 Presidential Election, both candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, held town halls across the country. At one campaign event, a woman told Senator McCain, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, he’s not — he’s an Arab.” Senator McCain shook his head, took the microphone from that woman and responded, “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.” John McCain lived his values and beliefs not to campaign negatively, but to maintain a discourse that was respectful and focused on the key issues of the presidential campaign. Click here to watch more.
Senator McCain died August 25th, and President Obama was one of the many, on both sides of aisle, who shared respectful tributes to this American hero, patriot, and kind human being. John McCain exemplified that, while we can choose to be anything in this life, we can all choose to be kind. As I listened to the many comments made about Senator McCain, I was struck both by his kindness and his gratitude; his grace in facing a terminal diagnosis and speaking about how grateful he was for his life; the many opportunities he was afforded to serve his country and to meet his fellow Americans along the way; and to build a family, all in the greatest country in the world. Yes, Senator McCain could disagree and he could argue with his colleagues, but he maintained a certain decorum, a certain respect. My father taught all four of his children that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity no matter how we might be treated. I have kept that lesson close to me throughout my life.
Earlier this month, the #BeKind campaign kicked off at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. #BeKind is our theme this year, not just at Westside Community Schools, but at dozens of school districts across the state of Nebraska. In addition, local government officials, including boards of education, city governments and mayors, and many statewide educational organizations, passed and signed resolutions to support our #BeKind initiative.
We are already seeing powerful displays of goodwill, generosity and love from our students, staff members, and community. Public education is not solely about facts and classroom lessons; we want to nurture and teach our learners to use their talents and strengths as they grow and mature into the best people they can be, in all facets of their lives. #BeKind isn’t just a slogan, it’s a movement that is constantly reminding all of us to be better – to others and to ourselves – to make our world a better place.
Senator McCain is remembered for many things: as a courageous prisoner of war; as a maverick leader who always fought for the person who needed his help; for his strong beliefs; and as a senator who was known for his integrity as much as for his position. President George W. Bush, who was asked to speak at the Senator’s funeral, said: “Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”
John McCain’s belief in and gratitude for our democracy is something that, as a social studies teacher, I worked to instill in my students. We do live in a great country and we should be grateful for all of those who came before us to create this republic. Granted, it is not perfect, but as Winston Churchill once said, “Indeed it has been said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time……”
Like John McCain, please Be vivid. Be vibrant. Be a friend. #BeKind.