Photo by EVAN HUNDELT
Last night the National Constitution Center bestowed the Liberty Medal to Senator John McCain for his lifetime of service and sacrifice. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, delivered opening remarks, ardently praising McCain’s moral integrity and his dogged commitment to the advancement of the United States as a virtuous nation. University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Amy Gutmann, and Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz also paid homage to McCain’s patriotism and inspirational leadership, citing the unimaginable suffering he endured as a POW in a North Vietnamese prison where torture and beatings were a daily occurrence.
The Liberty Medal was presented by Vice President and colleague Joe Biden, whose friendship with the Arizona Senator remained steadfast despite their many policy disagreements, he pointedly remarked. Biden’s characteristic jocularity mixed with solemn moments of recollection of McCain’s unsettling past and fearless triumph held the teary-eyed audience in a state of limerence. Upon accepting the Liberty Medal, McCain commenced an impassioned speech, beginning with a history of acquaintanceship with “Joe,” as he referred to the former vice president. “We didn’t always agree on the issues,” he went on to say, “We often argued—sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believe in the institution we were privileged to serve in.”
But it wasn’t until McCain mentioned his disaffiliation with and criticism of President Donald Trump that the audience rose to their feet in a unified roar of applause: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” — EVAN HUNDELT