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Remarks of Senator John McCain
Republican National Convention
Tuesday, August 1, 2000
I am grateful for your kindness to a distant runner-up. And I am proud to join you this evening in commending to all Americans the man who now represents your best wishes and mine for the future of our country, my friend, Governor George W. Bush, the next President of the United States.
Tomorrow, we will formally nominate Governor Bush. We do so not for our sake alone. We do not seek his election merely to acquire an advantage over our political opponents or offices for our party faithful. We have a grander purpose than that.
When we nominate Governor Bush for President, here in the city where our great nation was born, we invest him with the faith of our founding fathers, and charge him with the care of the cause they called glorious.
We are blessed to be Americans, not just in times of prosperity, but at all times. We are part of something providential; a great experiment to prove to the world that democracy is not only the most effective form of government, but the only moral government. And through the years, generation after generation of Americans has held fast to the belief that we were meant to transform history.
On an early December morning, many years ago, I watched my father leave for war. He joined millions of Americans to fight a world war that would decide the fate of humanity. They fought against a cruel and formidable enemy bent on world domination. They fought not just for themselves and their families, not just to preserve the quality of their own lives. They fought for love, for love of an idea – that America stood for something greater than the sum of our individual interests.
From where did the courage come to make the maximum effort in that decisive moment in history? It marched with the sons of a nation that believed deeply in itself, in its history, in the justice of its cause, in its magnificent destiny. Americans went into battle armed against despair with the common conviction that the country that had sent them there was worth their sacrifice.
Their families, their schools, their faith, their history, their heroes taught them that the freedom with which they were blessed deserved patriots to defend it.
Many would never come home. But those who did returned with an even deeper civic love. They believed that if America were worth dying for, then surely she was worth living for. They were, as Tocqueville said of Americans, “haunted by visions of what will be.”
They built an even greater nation than the one they had left their homes to defend; an America that offered more opportunities to more of its people than ever before; an America that began to redress injustices that had been visited on too many of her citizens for too long. They bound up the wounds of war for ally and enemy alike. And when faced with a new, terrible threat to the security and freedom of the world, they fought that too. As did their sons and daughters. And they prevailed.
Now we stand unsurpassed in our wealth and power. What shall we make of it? Let us take courage from their example, and from the new world they built, build a better one.
This new century will be an age of untold possibilities for us and for all mankind. Many nations now share our love of liberty and aspire to the ordered progress of democracy. But the world is still home to tyrants, haters and aggressors hostile to America and our ideals. We are obliged to seize this moment to help build a safer, freer and more prosperous world, completely free of the tyranny that made the last century such a violent age.
We are strong, confident people. We know that our ideals, our courage, our ingenuity ensure our success. Isolationism and protectionism are fool’s errands. We shouldn’t build walls to the global success of our interests and values. Walls are for cowards, my friends, not for Americans. No nation complacent in its greatness will long sustain it. We are an unfinished nation. And we are not a people of half-measures. We who have found shelter beneath the great oak must care for it in our time with as much devotion as had the patriots who preceded us.
This is an extraordinary time to be alive. We are so strong and prosperous that we can scarcely imagine the heights we could ascend if we have the will to make the climb. Yet I think each of us senses that America, for all our prosperity, is in danger of losing the best sense of herself: that there is a purpose to being an American beyond materialism.
Cynicism is suffocating the idealism of many Americans, especially among our young. And with cause, for they have lost pride in their government.
Too often those who hold a public trust have failed to set the necessary example. Too often, partisanship seems all consuming. Differences are defined with derision. Too often, we seem to put our personal interests before the national interest, leaving the people’s business unattended while we posture, poll and spin. When the people believe that government no longer embodies our founding ideals, then basic civil consensus will deteriorate as people seek substitutes for the unifying values of patriotism. National pride will not endure the people’s contempt for government. And national pride is as indispensable to the happiness of Americans as is our self-respect.
When we quit seeing ourselves as part of something greater than our self-interest then civic love gives way to the temptations of selfishness, bigotry and hate. Unless we restore the people’s sovereignty over government, renew their pride in public service, reform our public institutions to meet the challenges of a new day and reinvigorate our national purpose then America’s best days will be behind us.
To achieve the necessary changes to the practices and institutions of our democracy we need to be a little less content. We need to get riled up a bit, and stand up for the values that made America great. Rally to this new patriotic challenge or lose forever America’s extraordinary ability to see around the corner of history. Americans, enter the public life of your country determined to tell the truth; to put problem solving ahead of partisanship; to defend the national interest against the forces that would divide us. Keep your promise to America, as she has kept her promise to you, and you will know a happiness far more sublime than pleasure.
It is easy to forget in politics where principle ends and selfishness begins. It takes leaders of courage and character to remember the difference.
Tomorrow, our party will nominate such a leader. George W. Bush believes in the greatness of America and the justice of our cause. He believes in the America of the immigrant’s dream, the high lantern of freedom and hope to the world. He is proud of America’s stature as the world’s only superpower, and he accepts the responsibilities along with the blessings that come with that hard-earned distinction. He knows well that there is no safe alternative to American leadership. And he will not squander this unique moment in history by allowing America to retreat behind empty threats, false promises, and uncertain diplomacy. He will confidently defend our interests and values wherever they are threatened.
I say to all Americans, Republican, Democrat or Independent, if you believe America deserves leaders with a purpose more ennobling than expediency and opportunism, then vote for Governor Bush. If you believe patriotism is more than a soundbite and public service should be more than a photo-op, then vote for Governor Bush.
My friend, Governor Bush, believes in an America that is so much more than the sum of its divided parts. He wants to give you back a government that serves all the people no matter the circumstances of their birth. And he wants to lead a Republican Party that is as big as the country we serve.
He wants nothing to divide us into separate nations. Not our color. Not our race. Not our wealth. Not our religion. Not our politics. He wants us to live for America, as one nation, and together profess the American Creed of self-evident truths.
I support him. I am grateful to him. And I am proud of him.
He is a good man from a good family that has, in good times and bad, dedicated themselves to America. Many years ago, the Governor’s father served in the Pacific, with distinction, under the command of my grandfather. Now it is my turn to serve under the son of my grandfather’s brave subordinate.
I am proud to do so for I know that by supporting George W. Bush I serve my country well.
My grandfather was an aviator; my father a submariner. They gave their lives to their country. In Tokyo Harbor, on the day the Japanese surrendered, they were re-united for the last time. My grandfather would die a few days later. His last words to my father were “it’s an honor to die for your country and your principles.” I have been an imperfect servant of my country for over forty years, and my many mistakes rightly humble me. But I am their son . . . and they taught me to love my country, and that has made all the difference, my friends, all the difference in the world.
I am so grateful to have seen America rise to such prominence. But America’s greatness is a quest without end, the object beyond the horizon. And it is an inescapable and bittersweet irony of life, that the older we are the more distant the horizon becomes. I will not see what is over America’s horizon. The years that remain are not too few I trust, but the immortality that was the aspiration of my youth, has, like all the treasures of youth, quietly slipped away.
But I have faith. I have faith in you. I have faith in your patriotism, in your passion to build upon the accomplishments of our storied past. I have faith that people who are free to act in their own interests will perceive their interests in an enlightened way and live as one nation, in a kinship of ideals, served by a government that kindles the pride of every one of you.
I have faith that just beyond the distant horizon live a people who gratefully accept the obligation of their freedom to make of their power and wealth a civilization for the ages – a civilization in which all people share in the promise of freedom.
I have such faith in you, my fellow Americans.
And I am haunted by the vision of what will be.