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The Virtues of the Quiet Hero

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The Virtues of the Quiet Hero

The Virtues of the Quiet Hero

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe that a generation of young people...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe it deeply and sincerely.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the importance of passing this knowledge...

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that everyone wants to love and be loved.

Unidentified Man #4: All of these add up to my belief in the dignity of the individual.

Unidentified Man #5: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #6: This I believe.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Our series This I Believe brings you statements of personal conviction from all kinds of people, the everyday and the well-known. Today our essay comes from a leading figure in public life: John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, presidential candidate and Republican senator from Arizona. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

It is one thing to hold beliefs. It is another to have them tested. Senator John McCain's beliefs have undergone the scrutiny of public life and the harrowing personal trials of being a POW, and they've held up. The principles he lives by are the ones he's willing to die for. Recorded in his office in Phoenix, Arizona, here is Senator John McCain with his essay for This I Believe.

JOHN McCAIN:

I believe in honor, faith and service to one's country and to mankind. It's a lesson I learned from my family, from the men with whom I served in Vietnam and from my fellow Americans. Take William B. Rabnell(ph). He was in Patton's tank corps that went across Europe. I knew him, though, as an English teacher and football coach in my high school. He could make Shakespeare come alive, and he had incredible leadership talents that made me idolize him. What he taught me more than anything else was to strictly adhere to our school's honor code. If we stuck to those standards of integrity and honor, then we could be proud of ourselves; we could serve causes greater than our own self-interest.

Years later I saw an example of honor in the most surprising of places. As a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam, I was tied in torture ropes by my tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening a guard I had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve my suffering. Just before morning that same guard came back and retightened the ropes before his less-humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to me.

Some months later on a Christmas morning, as I stood alone in the prison courtyard, that same guard walked up to me and stood next to me for a few moments. Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly there for a minute or two venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away. To me, that was faith, a faith that unites and never divides, a faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It's the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a faith I would die to defend.

My determination to act with honor and integrity impels me to work in service to my country. I believe that the means to real happiness and the true worth of a person is measured by how faithfully we serve a cause greater than our self-interest.

In America, we celebrate the virtues of the quiet hero, the modest man who does his duty without complaint or expectation of praise, the man who listens closely for the call of his country, and when she calls, he answers without reservation, not for fame or reward but for love.

I have been an imperfect servant of my country, and my mistakes rightly humble me. I've tried to live by these principles of honor, faith and service because I want my children to live by them as well. I hope to be a good example to them, so that when their generation takes our place, they will make better decisions and continue to pave the path toward righteousness and freedom.

ALLISON: Senator John McCain with his essay for This I Believe.

As always, we invite you to make a contribution to this series. You can find information on submitting your own essay at our Web site, npr.org, or you can call (202) 408-0300. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

SIEGEL: Next Monday on "Morning Edition," an essay from writer Studs Terkel.

(Credits)

MELISSA BLOCK (Host): I'm Melissa Block.

SIEGEL: And I'm Robert Siegel. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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