A few weeks ago our daughter reflected on Facebook all the wonderful places she has had the opportunity to live. She now lives in Now she lives in the San Francisco Bay area in Concord. She is married to a wonderful, caring man, Ken. They have an energy-driven, smiling, laughing, playful seven year old son, Thomas. On my grandson’s behalf I say: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. HAPPPY DAUGHTER’S DAY!
On the eve of seeing Emily and her family, the first time while we have been quarantined in our homes with the current pandemic, I’m awake at four in the morning excited to see them from a “socially appropriate distance”. We will visit in the court yard at our home in Rio Vista, about 35 minutes from their home. My chair will be inside the Casita that has an entrance into the courtyard–and I will be wearing my mask. Emily and her family will be seated with masks six feet away in the corners of the court yard. We’re going to order burgers from a local restaurant that delivers. Nancy has made cup cakes for the occasion.
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During this pandemic, Emily has been 500% involved with her husband in caring for their active seven year old son and young puppy Pike— a beautiful Boxer. While it hasn’t been easy, time has gone pretty fast with all the activities Emily plans for Tommy. We also spend time on Facetime and a neat interactive program called Caribu.
Emily has shared with us how happy they have been, amid the tragedy of a society closed down, to have been blessed with so much quality time together as a family. My reflections take me to how much my wife and I have been blessed to watch our daughter (mom and wife) grow through the years–especially during these weeks/months confined to home.
Some background on Emily: Readers of this blog may need to know that Emily is a PK = preachers kid. Her life has taken her to many cities through the years. She was born in 1980 and baptized in Davenport, Iowa. As a baby, I spent a lot of time with Nancy and me and our church youth group. I especially remember long work trips with the youth with a baby in tow. We had a lot of teenagers willing to help us with babysitting. Emily’s youngest years were at my second Call as an Associate Pastor in Evanston Illinois. Her playground was the back yard of the manse next door to the church in sharing this sacred play-space with the church day care. Happy, social Emily was always surrounded with lots of children.
Our move to a Saginaw Michigan in 1987 put her Emily in a school system that would take her from Kindercare, Kempton Elementary Scool, South Middle School until she graduated from Arthur Hill High School in 1999. I’ll never forget crying that rainy night at her graduation from High school.
Emily moves quickly through Delta College and Michigan State University with a wonderful internship in Washington DC working for Senator Debbie Stabenow. She had the chance to ‘rub shoulders’ with Hillary Clinton. (Sorry for dropping names!) She worked for the Whirlpool Corporation that took her professionally, to Nashville Tennessee, Charleston North Carolina and then to the San Francisco Bay area where she currently lives. Health issues, another story, has caused Emily to go on disability. Nothing she has encountered has kept her from being a strong woman in caring for her family! That’s why I am writing this short essay.
I firmly believe, as parents, we’ve been called to be trustees of of our children. Emily is first and foremost a Child of God. Along with her family, she is a precious soul God has given us. I can’t imagine the world without her.
There will always be ups and downs. I know that Emily and her family will be able to work through anything the world throws their way. As I’ve said before, next to her mother she is the strongest women I know!
On Mother’s Day our journey continues. We will be safe from the dangerous virus that lurks all around us. I know Emily will weather the storms in always finding the God-filled sunny days ahead as shed grows as a woman and MOTHER.
This year of our Lord, 2020, I pray that our journey together will continue in marvelous ways. God only knows.
May God continue to bless Emily and her family.
Happy Mother’s Day–daughter day!
Three years ago Nancy and I made the decision to move from Saginaw, Michigan to Rio Vista, California. The decision was easy. For health reasons, it was becoming obvious that I could not make regular trips to California to visit our daughter and her family. We wanted to live close to Emily, Ken and our young grandson Thomas. Emily, Ken and Thomas live about 45 minutes from Rio Vista.
It was also important that we find a home we could afford. California is an expensive state. It was impossible for us to find affordable housing near San Francisco. Then Nancy and Emily, on a trip through the Sacramento Delta, found the gated community named TRILOGY. This is a 55+ community with beautiful homes, an 18 hole golf course and lots of other amenities. The HOA fees are reasonable. There are roughly 6000 residents in this affordable gated community of seniors. TRILOGY is part of the city of Rio Vista, population roughly 10,000, located on he shore of he Sacramento River–and the Sacramento DELTA. Rio Vista is halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. We love our home on Riviera Drive complete with a casita (pictured) my study and man-cave with private entrance.
I’m still getting used to life in a small town. We have no doctors. One good grocery store, a pharmacy and hardware store take care of our immediate needs. The fire department comes to the house once a year to change smoke detector batteries. I have a great barber who comes outside to help me and my walker in and out of my car. McDonalds and KFC/Taco Bell are the only fast-food outlets on highway 12 that runs through our small town. Main Street and Front Street have a number of good restaurants, bars, small shops–all great for tourists. Several small churches can be found in Rio Vista–no Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian churches in Rio Vista. We travel once or twice w week the 20-30 miles to do major shopping, visit doctors. We pass by Travis Air Force Base on our trips to Fairfield, about 15 minutes from our home. NAPA and several wineries are within thirty minutes of our home. Nancy has found several groups she thoroughly loves–quilting with friends on Wednesdays, playing cards, a couple of service projects including making pillow cases for children with Cancer. This takes her to Sacramento once or twice a month to deliver what she and her friends make. She loves having Wednesday nights out with her friends–and trips once or twice a week to Concord to visit Emily and her family. We love taking our lunch to a couple of places along the shore of the Sacramento River. I always look forward to visits from the ‘kids’ — especially Tommy who is now seven. I’d have to say playing with Legos is our favorite activity. While we still miss all that was available when living in Saginaw, Michigan, our home for 30 years, nothing can replace quality time we can now spend with our California family and friends.
SO WHAT IS THE SACRAMENTO DELTA?
A triangle of land just east and inland from the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento DELTA provides drinking water for more than 20 million Californians (2008 statistic). The Delta is an expansive inland river delta and estuary formed by the confluence of the Sacrament and San Joaquin rivers–just east of where the rivers enter the Suisun Bay. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are major shipping channels–depth of over 30 feet. The DELTA is also a major boating, fishing, camping, touring wonderland offering many attactions for tourists.
Because of these rivers, we cross several bridges to get just about ANYWHERE! Nothing is worse than trying to cross the Rio Vista Bridge when a big ship is traveling to or from Sacramento. We can be held up in traffic for up to thirty minutes. Because all we have are two-lane roads in and out of town, one accident can tie up traffic for hours.
There is much to learn as we continue adjusting to Delta living. I hope this brief introduction will help friends and family understand where we now live.
RIO VISTA GAS FIELD and WIND FARM
Rio Vista is also known as one of the largest natural gas fields in the nation. Spanning portions of three counties and covering over 29,000 acres, it is the largest natural gas field in California. –fifteenth largest in the United States. Driving through TRILOGY and the 3000 homes and parks and golf course, one will also see several locations where this gas field has active outlets. One cannot avoid seeing on the horizon, leaving the gates of TRILOGY, the hundreds of wind turbines. The delta is also known for the low-elevation hills and brisk breezes allowing for this source of natural energy–the future in California. Also o note, after we made our move to California, are all the solar panels on home roofs that capture energy from the sun. So far, we have not made he decision to install solar panels on our house.
Wind is a ‘big deal’ for us on the Delta. With the winds come the threat of fires. Power outages are also common throughout the Delta. We’ve been lucky so far when it comes to the fires. The new normal for people living in California are these threats of fire and power outages. This will be a topic to address at another time.
I thought it was time to write a few things about life in Rio Vista and the Sacramento Delta. Take a close look at the map of the Delta–lots of things to see and do. Enjoy.
My first years of ministry my tool box for writing sermons was pencil, pen and paper — and typewriter. This was the 70’s! A black IBM ‘Selectric’ was my favorite. I must have kept that typewriter in my writing ‘tool box’ into the 80’s.
I don’t remember exactly when, but my first computer was a so-called portable Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 — a big and heavy machine with a white carrying case that looked like a sewing machine case on steroids.
I loved using both the typewriter and computer. After ten years of ministry I moved to the Warren Ave Presbyterian Church in Saginaw MI where computers were introduced into the regular work of maintaining church finances.
Around 1985 I parted permanently from the use of a typewriter, though it took the office over a dozen more years. We always kept a big blue ‘IBM Selectric’ around the office that came in handy in filling out wedding, baptism and a host of other important forms. Personally, I always had an IBM PC or a laptop. I never used a Mac!
This may sound funny, but I took my first computer class at Ghost Ranch—YES, this rustic, rural church owned camp located in the beautiful mountains near Abiquiu, New Mexico. Ghost Ranch is known as a sacred place where we can usually get away from our computers and high=tech tools. I believe this class I took was limited to eight or ten of us….computers provided. I remember all the extension cords and computer wires that connected us to one or two power outlets and one hard-wired printer.
The church has always been quite progressive in helping us clergy-types use these important tools that would make sermon writing/editing a major time-saving tool. No longer would I need to re-type sermons three or four times to come up with something that could give me a manuscript guide in proclaiming the gospel!
These are my earliest thoughts in the use of a computer. What are your memories? And by the way–
Now retired, I am writing this blog on my smart-phone. 🙂
The words of Matthew 5:16 resonate in the community of Saginaw Michigan as a new 501C3 organization has been established, SAGINAW COLLABORATIVE INC., located in the facilities in Saginaw where the former Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church worshipped since 1867—dissolving the end of 2018.
It has long been a dream of mine to keep the mission of this congregation alive in a distressed neighborhood well beyond the time in God’s plan that can no longer sustain a worshipping congregation in this inner-city location. The Presbytery of Lake Huron shares in this dream in providing a mission-center in this east side Saginaw neighborhood by leasing this property to this newly formed organization.
While I can only watch the development of this organization from our California home, over 2000 miles away, I celebrate the Presbyterian Church maintaining a vital presence in this community east of the Saginaw River. Truly, God’s light will continue to shine for the people in this neighborhood through this new organization.
Over five years ago, in preparation for my retirement, I had a few things to say on this topic in a sermon (September 22, 2013), published in a small book, Personal Favorites, Sermons of Rev. Tom Cundiff, February 24, 2016. WWW.AMAZON.COM
Discussing the church mission statement: “This is easily a mission statement that encompasses both of the Matthewian texts (Matthew 25: 31-36) and what has become, over the years, the foundation in what we have been able to nurture collaboratively in relationships with our neighbors within the community around the church and he larger metropolitan city of Saginaw.”
“With what God has entrusted our care, I/we have tried to be faithful to this mission. It seems, from my perspective, that the identity of this church in linked intrinsically to this location in this neighborhood. This church has nurtured healthy collaborative style of doing ministry that has made it possible to use this building – this building being one of our greatest assets – to meet the needs of children in this community.” Pg 44-45 This building, now in the hands of the Presbytery of Lake Huron, is acting in a positive way on this dream of a congregation.
For more information on the SAGINAW COLLABORATIVE INC:
Statement of Purpose: To provide a downtown community enrichment center to be used by various organizations to offer safe educational, recreational, and social services for Saginaw residents of all ages. http://saginawcollaborative.saginawcollaborative.org/2018/10/on-june-27-208-warren-ave.html
History: Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church (WAPC) has served Saginaw for over 150 years. Over the years the church has served as a food bank, soup kitchen, clothing bank, and youth center. It’s over 20,000 square feet are comprised of classrooms, offices, a sanctuary, gymnasium, stage, meeting rooms, and kitchens.
As membership and resources dwindled one by one community services were relocated. The Congregation can no longer support the upkeep of the building and will discontinue worship services on November 25, 2018.
People of faith, “Let your light shine” for the children in this Saginaw, Michigan community. Let this be our prayer.
Rev. Tom Cundiff
The Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, Michigan will gather to worship for the last time at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 25th–612 Millard St., Downtown Saginaw. While I will not be physically present for this service, my heart will be in this worship service in thanking God for the gift of 151 years of service in the Saginaw community.
Most of my career as a Pastor was devoted to serving this congregation with ‘energy, intelligence, imagination and love.’ More than anything else I will remember our striving to glorify God as stewards of the abundance of resources God entrusted our care.
I will never forget the special experiences we spent together in worship or on retreats. Lunch Bunch excursions and fellowship dinners will always be remembered. Closest to my heart will be the baptisms, weddings and funerals—and sacred moments when we would join together in conversation and prayer.
The cornerstone of church ministry has been in caring for the children and youth in the community. I understand there is a commitment to use the church building to continue this work in serving the community.
All in all, may we all give glory to God for 151 years of living as servants of the living Christ. May God continue to bless all those who were touched by the love of God though the ministries of this Saginaw Church.
Receiving the final newsletter from the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw almost brought me to tears. The end! This church is closing. The grief is real.
Then I read an article about the future use of the church building. Christ lives! The church continues to thrive!
WHAT A BLESSING! The hands and feet and heart of Christ will continue serving the “underserved” part of the city of Saginaw. God willing, all the pieces of the complicated puzzle will come together for the newly formed downtown community enrichment center formally called “Saginaw Collaborative, Inc.”.
While the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church has formally closed, the living Christ continues to live and walk with the people in the community—the faith and vision of members of the church along with the Presbytery of Lake Huron. I celebrate receiving this news…..and the hard work of members of the congregation and Presbytery of Lake Huron have not gone unnoticed.
This is the newsletter article I received on November 10th.
A community based organization has been established “for the provision of a downtown community enrichment center to be used by various organizations to offer safe educational, recreational, and social services for Saginaw residents of all ages.” The group has been incorporated under the name of “Saginaw Collaborative, Inc.” By-laws have been approved, a Board of Directors and officers have been elected, and an application for tax-exempt status has been filed with the IRS. Rev. Dr. Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter, as an ex-officio board member in an advisor capacity.
Women of Colors will continue as a tenant, with intent to expand their scope of services. In addition three additional organizations serving the youth and needy of Saginaw have committed to occupy space with several other organizations in discussion with the Collaborative for space, as well.
Session has approved the soliciting of bids from architectural firms to inspect and design the necessary structural and engineering renovations to accommodate the buildings new usage. Every consideration is being given to continuing Warren Avenue’s legacy of ministry to a traditionally underserved segment of the Saginaw community. The Collaborative has begun seeking funding from various local agencies to commission the strategic and fund development plans necessary to implement this exciting, yet daunting, project. Please pray for the projects’ success.
I sometimes ask in worship—especially during the ‘Children’s Sermon’: What comes natural to you—CLENCHED FISTS or OPEN HANDS.
Created in the image of God, we are called to open our hands to family and friends and neighbors. I have to confess, hearing the hate-filled rhetoric of our current President, I have found myself clenching my fists. His speeches make my angry. I don’t like feeling this way. The fear being instilled in hearts and minds of good people, in my mind, is wrong – for me and for our country.
I think of The Westminster Shorter Catechism and the first question: What is the chief end of man.? Making it inclusive: “The chief end of all creation is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” There is no hatred in loving God. There are no clenched fists when raising our hands in giving glory to God. I must preach to myself! Personally, it’s time to find ways to fight, with open hands, the hate-filled clenched-fist rhetoric dividing our nation.
We currently live in a nation where certain ‘nationalist’ leaders find it politically expedient to preach hatred with closed fists toward people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation or cultures. Certain leaders thrive on growing hatred with clenched fists and angry voices. These same people believe in building walls and reinforcing borders to keep people of different cultures or religious beliefs from entering our country. Yet aren’t we a nation of immigrants? Yes there is a need for immigration reform, but to hate people just because they want to experience the American dream?
Now there may be times in our nation for clenched fists. We have enemies. But sowing hatred for large populations and cultures of people should not be a way of life. There are times in this world we must be tough when it comes to addressing divisiveness and terror. My worry and FEAR is our forgetting who we are, constitutionally. To quote the Declaration of Independence, “all people are created equal, endowed by God our creator with certain unalienable Rights –and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Are you happy with the hatred our current President sows? How do we (I) unclench our fists?
The best way I know to give glory to God is to be proactive in finding ways to elect leaders who will build us up and bind us together as we in tear down walls that separate us from neighbors and the love of God. Those who promote fear and hatred toward others cannot represent me. We must elect those who would given with clenched fists out of office.
So back to the question of how I can move forward with open hands. My God, the God who created me to smile upon friends and neighbors whoever they may be is calling me to VOTE for leaders who promote our becoming a more loving, caring, inclusive country. This is an important election. Vote your values. Vote with open hands. May God smile upon us as we work to elect those who promote God’s love and acceptance of all people.
What were you doing when the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001?
As for me, I was listening to the news in my car on the way to the church when the first plane flew into the first tower. I had a scheduled meeting with Avis, the church administrative secretary, to work on the church budget. I didn’t stop all that I was doing to keep up with the news. Was I in denial? Were my priorities screwed up? At that point I’m pretty sure I didn’t comprehend the gravity of this situation.
I went ahead with the business of the day—numb—until the phone rang. Church member, Kevin, called to ask me about my response to this situation. What was the church going to do? This tragedy was sinking into my mind/soul! I have no idea how I was going to respond. All I know for sure: Kevin, along with numerous others, were calling upon the church for what the church does best–the offering of pastoral support. Honestly, all we could do at this time was listen and hear and grieve together the loss we were experiencing as a nation.
Kevin would soon travel to New York as a trained Red Cross volunteer to provide logistical support for the thousands who responded to this national crisis. The church would join with neighboring congregations in worship and prayer. Seventeen years later, we continue to grieve and search for ways we can respond to this horrific episode in our past.
What were you doing on September 11, 2001? What are we doing now, personally and as a church and nation, to keep America safe?
I was ready to close down this blog until I heard the powerful personal eulogy for his good friend John McCain. “Bound and Nurtured in God’s Love” well descries my thoughts about both Joe Biden and John McCain. In this eulogy Joe Biden asked a question worthy of an answer: Why is the nation so enthralled with this man? I am posting the entire eulogy for those who didn’t get a chance to hear it.
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. And I loved John McCain. I have had the dubious honor over the years of giving some eulogies for fine women and men that I’ve admired. But, Lindsey, this one’s hard.
The three men who spoke before me I think captured John, different aspects of John in a way that only someone close to him could understand. But the way I look at it, the way I thought about it, was that I always thought of John as a brother. We had a hell of a lot of family fights. We go back a long way. I was a young United States Senator. I got elected when I was 29. I had the dubious distinction of being put on the formulations committee, which the next youngest person was 14 years older than me. And I spent a lot of time traveling the world because I was assigned responsibility, my colleagues in the Senate knew I was chairman of the European Affairs subcommittee, so I spent a lot of time at NATO and then the Soviet Union.
Along came a guy a couple of years later, a guy I knew of, admired from afar, your husband, who had been a prisoner of war, who had endured enormous, enormous pain and suffering. And demonstrated the code, the McCain code. People don’t think much about it today, but imagine having already known the pain you were likely to endure, and being offered the opportunity to go home, but saying no. As his son can tell you in the Navy, last one in, last one out.
So I knew of John. and John became the Navy liaison officer in the United States Senate. There’s an office, then it used to be on the basement floor, of members of the military who are assigned to senators when they travel abroad to meet with heads of state or other foreign dignitaries. And John had been recently released from the HanoI Hilton, a genuine hero, and he became the Navy liaison. For some reason we hit it off in the beginning. We were both full of dreams and ambitions and an overwhelming desire to make the time we had there worthwhile. To try to do the right thing. To think about how we could make things better for the country we loved so much.
John and I ended up traveling every time I went anywhere. I took John with me or John took me with him. we were in China, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, England, Turkey, all over the world. Tens of thousands of miles. And we would sit on that plane and late into the night, when everyone else was asleep, and just talk. Getting to know one another. We’d talk about family, we’d talk about politics, we’d talk about international relations. we’d talk about promise, the promise of America. Because we were both cockeyed optimists and believe there’s not a single thing, beyond the capacity of this country. I mean, for real, not a single thing.
And, when you get to know another woman or man, you begin to know their hopes and their fears, you get to know their family even before you meet them, you get to know how they feel about important things. We talked about everything except captivity and the loss of my family which had just occurred, my wife and daughter, the only two things we didn’t talk about.
But, I found that it wasn’t too long into John’s duties that Jill and I got married. Jill is here with me today. Five years, I had been a single dad and no man deserves one great love, let alone two. And I met Jill. It changed my life. She fell in love with him and he with her. He’d always call her, as Lindsey would travel with her, Jilly. Matter of fact, when they got bored being with me on these trips, I remember in Greece, he said, ‘Why don’t I take Jill for dinner?’ Later, I would learn they are at a cafe at the port and he has her dancing on top of a cement table drinking uzo. Not a joke. Jilly. Right, Jilly?
But we got to know each other well and he loved my son Beau and my son Hunt. As a young man, he came up to my house and he came up to Wilmington and out of this grew a great friendship that transcended whatever political differences we had or later developed because, above all, above all, we understood the same thing. All politics is personal. It’s all about trust. I trusted John with my life and I would and I think he would trust me with his. And as our life progressed, we learned more, there are times when life can be so cruel, pain so blinding it’s hard to see anything else.
The disease that took John’s life took our mutual friend’s, Teddy [Kennedy]’s life, the exact same disease nine years ago, a couple days ago, and three years ago, took my beautiful son Beau’s life. It’s brutal. It’s relentless. It’s unforgiving. And it takes so much from those we love and from the families who love them that in order to survive, we have to remember how they lived, not how they died. I carry with me an image of Beau, sitting out in a little lake we live on, starting a motor on an old boat and smiling away. Not the last days. I’m sure Vickie Kennedy has her own image, looking, seeing Teddy looking so alive in a sailboat, out in the Cape. For the family, for the family, you will all find your own images, whether it’s remembering his smile, his laugh or that touch in the shoulder or running his hand down your cheek. Or, just feeling like someone is looking, turn and see him just smiling at you, from a distance, just looking at you. Or when you saw the pure joy the moment he was about to take the stage on the Senate floor and start a fight.
God, he loved it. so, to Cindy, the kids, Doug, Andy, Cindy, Meghan, Jack, Jimmy, Bridget, and I know she’s not here, but to Mrs. McCain, we know how difficult it is to bury a child, Mrs. McCain. My heart goes out to you. And I know right now, the pain you all are feeling is so sharp and so hollowing. And John’s absence is all consuming, for all of you right now. It’s like being sucked into a black hole inside your chest. And it’s frightening. But, I know something else, unfortunately, from experience. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to ease the pain right now. But I pray, I pray you take some comfort knowing that because you shared John with all of us, your whole life, the world now shares with you in the ache of John’s death.
Look around this magnificent church. Look what you saw coming from the state capitol yesterday. it’s hard to stand there but part of it, part of it was at least it was for me with Beau, standing in the state capitol, you knew. It was genuine. It was deep. He touched so many lives. I’ve gotten calls not just because people knew we were friends, not just from people around the country, but leaders around the world calling. Meghan, I’m getting all these sympathy letters. I mean, hundreds of them, and tweets.
Character is destiny. John had character. While others will miss his leadership, passion, even his stubbornness, you are going to miss that hand on your shoulder. Family, you are going to miss the man, faithful man as he was, who you knew would literally give his life for you. And for that there’s no balm but time. Time and your memories of a life lived well and lived fully.
But I make you a promise. I promise you, the time will come that what’s going to happen is six months will go by and everybody is going to think, well, it’s passed. But you are going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image. You are going to feel like you did the day you got the news. But you know you are going to make it. The image of your dad, your husband, your friend. It crosses your mind and a smile comes to your lips before a tear to your eye. That’s who you know. I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know. The day will come. That day will come.
You know, I’m sure if my former colleagues who worked with John, I’m sure there’s people who said to you not only now, but the last ten years, ‘Explain this guy to me.’ Right? Explain this guy to me. Because, as they looked at him, in one sense they admired him, in one sense, the way things changed so much in America, they look add him as if John came from another age, lived by a different code, an ancient, antiquated courage, integrity, duty, were alive. That was obvious how John lived his life. The truth is, John’s code was ageless, is ageless. When you talked earlier, Grant, you talked about values. It wasn’t about politics with John. He could disagree on substance, but the underlying values that animated everything John did, everything he was, come to a different conclusion. He’d part company with you, if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself.
John’s story is an American story. It’s not hyperbole. it’s the American story. grounded in respect and decency. basic fairness. the intolerance through the abuse of power. Many of you travel the world, look how the rest of the world looks at us. They look at us a little naive, so fair, so decent. We are the naive Americans. that’s who we are. That’s who John was. He could not stand the abuse of power. wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever ways. He loved basic values, fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind and understanding Americans were part of something much bigger than ourselves.
With John, it was a value set that was neither selfish nor self-serving. John understood that America was first and foremost, an idea. Audacious and risky, organized around not tribe but ideals. Think of how he approached every issue. The ideals that Americans rallied around for 200 years, the ideals of the world has prepared you. Sounds corny. We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain rights. To John, those words had meaning, as they have for every great patriot who’s ever served this country. We both loved the Senate. The proudest years of my life were being a United States Senator. I was honored to be Vice President, but a United States Senator. We both lamented, watching it change. During the long debates in the ’80s and ’90s, I would go sit next to John, next to his seat or he would come on the Democratic side and sit next to me. I’m not joking. We’d sit there and talk to each other. I came out to see John, we were reminiscing around it. It was ’96, about to go to the caucus. We both went into our caucus and coincidentally, we were approached by our caucus leaders with the same thing. Foe, it doesn’t look good, you sitting next to John all the time. I swear to God. same thing was said to John in your caucus.
That’s when things began to change for the worse in America in the Senate. That’s when it changed. What happened was, at those times, it was always appropriate to challenge another Senator’s judgment, but never appropriate to challenge their motive. When you challenge their motive, it’s impossible to get to go. If I say you are going this because you are being paid off or you are doing it because you are not a good Christian or this, that, or the other thing, it’s impossible to reach consensus. Think about in your personal lives. All we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives, not the substance of their argument. This is the mid-’90s. it began to go downhill from there. The last day John was on the Senate floor, what was he fighting to do? He was fighting to restore what you call regular order, just start to treat one another again, like we used to.
The Senate was never perfect, John, you know that. we were there a long time together. I watched Teddy Kennedy and James O. Eastland fight like hell on civil rights and then go have lunch together, down in the Senate dining room. John wanted to see, “regular order” writ large. Get to know one another. You know, John and I were both amused and I think Lindsey was at one of these events where John and I received two prestigious awards where the last year I was vice president and one immediately after, for our dignity and respect we showed to one another, we received an award for civility in public life. Allegheny College puts out this award every year for bipartisanship. John and I looked at each and said, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ No, not a joke. I said to Senator Flake, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We get an award? I’m serious. Think about this. Getting an award for your civility. Getting an award for bipartisanship. Classic John, Allegheny College, hundreds of people, got the award and the Senate was in session. He spoke first and, as he walked off the stage and I walked on, he said, Joe, don’t take it personally, but I don’t want to hear what the hell you have to say, and left.
One of John’s major campaign people is now with the senate with the governor of Ohio, was on [TV] this morning and I happened to watch it. He said that Biden and McCain had a strange relationship, they always seemed to have each other’s back. Whenever I was in trouble, John was the first guy there. I hope I was there for him. We never hesitate to give each other advice. He would call me in the middle of the campaign, he’d say, ‘What the hell did you say that for? you just screwed up, Joe.’ I’d occasionally call him.
Look, I’ve been thinking this week about why John’s death hit the country so hard. yes, he was a long-serving senator with a remarkable record. Yes, he was a two-time presidential candidate who captured the support and imagination of the American people and, yes, John was a war hero, demonstrated extraordinary courage. I think of John and my son when I think of Ingersoll’s words when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate and honor scorns to compromise with death, that is heroism. Everybody knows that about John. But I don’t think it fully explains why the country has been so taken by John’s passing. I think it’s something more intangible.
I think it’s because they knew John believed so deeply and so passionately in the soul of America. He made it easier for them to have confidence and faith in America. His faith in the core values of this nation made them somehow feel it more genuinely themselves. his conviction that we, as a country, would never walk away from the sacrifice generations of Americans have made to defend liberty and freedom and dignity around the world. It made average Americans proud of themselves and their country. His belief, and it was deep, that Americans can do anything, withstand anything, achieve anything. It was unflagging and ultimately reassuring. This man believed that so strongly. His capacity that we truly are the world’s last best hope, the beacon to the world. There are principles and ideals more than ourselves worth sacrificing for and if necessary, dying for. Americans saw how he lived his life that way. and they knew the truth of what he was saying. I just think he gave Americans confidence.
John was a hero, his character, courage, honor, integrity. I think it is understated when they say optimism. That’s what made John special. Made John a giant among all of us. In my view, John didn’t believe that America’s future and faith rested on heroes. we used to talk about, he understood what I hope we all remember, heroes didn’t build this country. Ordinary people being given half a chance are capable of doing extraordinary things, extraordinary things. John knew ordinary Americans understood each of us has a duty to defend, integrity, dignity and birthright of every child. He carried it. Good communities are built by thousands of acts of decency that Americans, as I speak today, show each other every single day deep in the DNA of this nation’s soul lies a flame that was lit over 200 years ago. Each of us carries with us and each one of us has the capacity, the responsibility and we can screw up the courage to ensure it does not extinguish. There’s a thousand little things that make us different.
Bottom line was, I think John believed in us. I think he believed in the American people. not just all the preambles, he believed until the American people, all 325 million of us. Even though John is no longer with us, he left us clear instructions. ‘Believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here.’ Close to the last thing John said took the whole nation, as he knew he was about to depart. That’s what he wanted America to understand. not to build his legacy. he wanted America reminded, to understand. I think John’s legacy is going to continue to inspire and challenge generations of leaders as they step forward and John McCain’s America is not over. it is hyperbole, it’s not over. It’s not close.
Cindy, John owed so much of what he was to you. you were his ballast. when I was with you both, I could see how he looked at you. Jill is the one, when we were in Hawaii, we first met you there and he kept staring at you. Jill said, go up and talk to her. Doug, Andy, Sydney, Meghan, Jack, Jimmy, Bridget, you may not have had your father as long as you would like, but you got from him everything you need to pursue your own dreams. To follow the course of your own spirit. You are a living legacy, not hyperbole. You are a living legacy and proof of John McCain’s success.
Now John is going to take his rightful place in a long line of extraordinary leaders in this nation’s history. Who in their time and in their way stood for freedom and stood for liberty and have made the American story the most improbable and most hopeful and most enduring story on earth. I know John said he hoped he played a small part in that story. John, you did much more than that, my friend. To paraphrase Shakespeare, we shall not see his like again.”