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KATIE ZERR: Senator McCain’s actions leaving a lasting impact

Actions speak so much louder than words.
We have been reminded of that throughout our lives by parents, family members, sometimes law enforcement and by public figures.
Many of us are impacted by the actions of people in our lives, either positively or negatively. For some of us, we can remember the exact moment of that influence.
It may be a series of actions that make those impressions. Whether it is a teacher, law officers, a community leader or family members, our lives are shaped through the actions of others.
On Saturday, we lost a politician whose actions and words have had an impact on our lives, whether or not we know or admit it.
For some who don’t pay much attention to politics, Senator John McCain was that Republican who lost the presidency to to Barack Obama and the nomination for that job to George W. Bush. That is so minor in what is true of McCain.
This week tributes from across the world have shown the impact that Senator McCain had on many people. He was, as they are saying, a true champion of people.
He had his faults, like every one of us. The thing about McCain that is lacking in most people these days is that he owned up to the mistakes and when he was wrong he righted it. His actions and words have much more impact than those whose privileged lives and divisive rhetoric will ever have.
Since repeating what others have said would be pointless, I would like to point out how McCain had a lasting impact on my life. Through his actions, he made a profound difference that will stay with me forever.
First, in my younger years, reading about his experience in the Hanoi Hilton, I was astounded by his courage and selflessness. My appreciation for our service men and women was deepened through the histories of those like John McCain’s.
I was leaning in McCain’s direction during the 2008 election. I thought the country needed to have a man with military experience to lead us out of the mess we were in in the Middle East. I was a bit apprehensive about it, but I also knew he was a strong, principled man whose foreign policy knowledge would be a great asset to the nation during that time.
My resolve to vote for McCain strengthened during the 2008 race when he defended Barack Obama on several occasions. Behind the scenes he stood up to members of his own party when they wanted him to use the birther issue against his opponent. He pushed back at those who spread rumors that the Democrat candidate was terrorist sympathizer.
But the moment that impacted my life during that time was in my former home of Minnesota when an older woman was parroting something she had read during a town hall meeting.
“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, um, he’s an Arab,” she said.
McCain shook his head, took the microphone from her, and did not let her finish the far right drivel.
“No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not (an Arab).”
During a time in this nation when the rhetoric was taking a turn into the low life category in which we now are mired, McCain tried to pull us back from the tar pit. It was a shining moment.
But then, at the Republican National Convention, he named Sarah Palin as his running mate. This move both confused and astounded me. It was opposite of what I had come to admire most in McCain. Palin’s lack of experience and character and her divisive “Joe Six-pack” rhetoric threw us right back into the tar pit of divide. It was McCain’s choice of Palin that led to his downfall among many voters that year.
It was the move that changed my vote. Given McCain’s age, his battles with cancer and the lasting physical effects of what he endured as a prisoner of war, it set Palin too close to the presidency for me.
She was a terrible mistake. But being the man that he was McCain never blamed his loss on his choice of a running mate. He took the full blame for losing to Obama. He never criticized Palin publicly but one can only imagine him showing his anger to those who thought it was a good idea.
It took a long time to recover from that disappointment. But his actions in the U.S. Senate and on the world stage brought me back into the McCain admiration society in the years that followed.
So as we watched our country’s leader act like a petulant child in the days after McCain’s death, those memories of the courage and fortitude of a man whose life was serving this nation to the best of his abilities are clear.
We all can learn lessons from the life of John McCain if we pull our heads out of the tar pit.
– Katie Zerr –