While the political world mourns the passing of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer, past presidents and McCain’s own family members have released powerful statements trying to summarize the life of a towering American figure.
The White House had not yet released an official statement as of noon on Sunday. Here’s how McCain’s family and political colleagues have responded to the senator’s death.
“All that I am is thanks to him. Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations and his love.”
“My father’s passing comes with sorrow and grief for me, for my mother, for my brothers and for my sisters. He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long. We know that his flame lives on, in each of us. The days and years to come will not be the same without my dad — but they will be good days, filled with life and love, because of the example he lived for us.”
“My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”
President Donald Trump
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
Former President Barack Obama
“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible — and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.”
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden
“John McCain’s life is proof that some truths are timeless. Character. Courage. Integrity. Honor. A life lived embodying those truths casts a long, long shadow. John McCain will cast a long shadow. His impact on America hasn’t ended. Not even close. It will go on for many years to come.”
“John was many things — a proud graduate of the Naval Academy, a Senate colleague, a political opponent. But, to me, more than anything, John was a friend.”
Former President George W. Bush
“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathies to Cindy and the entire McCain family, and our thanks to God for the life of John McCain.”
Former President Bill Clinton & former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
“Senator John McCain believed that every citizen has a responsibility to make something of the freedoms given by our Constitution, and from his heroic service in the Navy to his 35 years in Congress, he lived by his creed every day. He was a skilled, tough politician, as well as a trusted colleague alongside whom Hillary was honored to serve in the Senate. He frequently put partisanship aside to do what he thought was best for the country, and was never afraid to break the mold if it was the right thing to do. I will always be especially grateful for his leadership in our successful efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Cindy, his mother, Roberta, his children, and his entire family.”
Former President George H.W. Bush
“John McCain was a patriot of the highest order, a public servant of rarest courage. Few sacrificed more for, or contributed more to, the welfare of his fellow citizens — and indeed freedom-loving peoples around the world. Another American maverick and warrior, General George Patton, once observed: “We should thank God that men such as these have lived.” To that I can only add my gratitude to John’s wife Cindy, his wonderful family, and the people of Arizona who permitted this great and good man to serve with such distinction in the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
Former President Jimmy Carter
“John McCain was a a man of honor, a true patriot in the best sense of the word. Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service and for his steadfast integrity as a member of the United States Senate. Rosalynn and I extend our sincere condolences to Sen. McCain’s family and to the people of Arizona whom he represented so forthrightly for so many years.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
“John McCain is one American who will never be forgotten.
“He was a giant. An icon. An American hero. But here at home, we were most proud to call him a fellow Arizonan. Like so many of us, he was not born here, but his spirit, service and fierce independence shaped the state with which he became synonymous.
“John McCain fought for America every day — from the Navy through Vietnam to the U.S. Senate. He fought for what he thought was right, even when it wasn’t popular. His dogged patriotism and passion for country made him an inspiration, and a model, for all of us.
“John McCain was about more than politics. He brought us above partisanship and challenged us to be great.
“He once told us, ‘We’re Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.’
“May his life and legacy continue to inspire us to build a future for this country, and a history for this country, that would make John McCain proud.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
“For John McCain his country was his life. He was tireless in its service. Courage, determination and relentless drive made him a great leader.
“To me, having served with him in the Senate for 20 years, his support for President Bush’s surge in Iraq at a time when things had been going badly and public support had eroded, was one of the most dramatic, important, patriotic and selfless actions I had the honor to witness in that body. His presidential aspirations were entirely set aside. He totally deployed his considerable strength and energy to what he believed was best for his country — and in service to those then fighting valiantly for the mission the nation had given them. It was a very contentious debate. His personal dedication and leadership moved a very uncertain decision to a favorable outcome.
“His ferocious tenacity for his country was unmatched. America has lost one of its greatest patriots.”
“Today we lost an American original. Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life — and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self. John McCain was my friend. I will remember the good times.”
Members of Congress
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.): “In an era filled with cynicism about national unity and public service, John McCain’s life shone as a bright example. He showed us that boundless patriotism and self-sacrifice are not outdated concepts or clichés, but the building blocks of an extraordinary American life.”
“Generations of McCains have served in our great Navy. John followed their example with distinction. And from his cell in Hanoi to the halls of the Senate, he never stopped fighting with courage and determination — first for his country, then for the people of Arizona, and always for the ideals he believed in most.
“It’s an understatement to say the Senate will not be the same without our friend John. I will treasure the many memories we’ve shared together through the years.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.): “This is a sad day for the United States. Our country has lost a decorated war hero and statesman. John McCain was a giant of our time — not just for the things he achieved, but for who he was and what he fought for all his life. John put principle before politics. He put country before self. He was one of the most courageous men of the century. He will always be listed among freedom’s most gallant and faithful servants. Our hearts are with his wife, Cindy, his children, and his grandchildren. This Congress, this country mourn with them.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): “As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them. His dedication to his country and the military were unsurpassed, and maybe most of all, he was a truth teller — never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare.
“The Senate, the United States and the world are lesser places without John McCain.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “The nation is in tears. Today, with the passing of John McCain, Congress and America have lost a leader and public servant of deep patriotism, outstanding bravery and undaunted spirit. Compelled by his unshakeable faith and deep love of country, he dedicated his life to defending both America and the American idea — fighting tirelessly to ensure that our nation always remains a land of justice, freedom and hope.
“Over the course of John McCain’s years of distinguished service, whether as a naval officer, Member of Congress, U.S. senator or presidential candidate, we all saw firsthand his integrity, humility, courage and grace. He never forgot the great duty he felt to care for our nation’s heroes, dedicating his spirit and energy to ensuring that no man or woman in uniform was left behind on the battlefield or once they returned home.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): “Words cannot express the sorrow I feel at John McCain’s passing. The world has lost a hero and a statesman. Cindy and the McCain family have lost a loving husband and father. I have lost a wonderful friend.”
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Flake added: “We may never see his like again, but it is his reflection of America that we need now more than ever. He was far too self-deprecating to ever have thought of himself as just such a towering figure, so I will go ahead and say it. He showed us who we are and who we can be when we are at our best. And he devoted his life to service and to the exalted idea of America that was bigger and better than him. Bigger than us all. His fidelity to that idea, and his idealism in balancing fierce political battles with a determination to always see the good and find the humanity in his opponents is an example that transcended politics and made him the man that he was.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “America and Freedom have lost one of her greatest champions. ... And I’ve lost one of my dearest friends and mentor. I will need some time to absorb this, but I want Cindy — and the entire McCain family — to know they are in my prayers.”
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.): “Although it was clear that John McCain’s life was ending, his death today hurts. America has lost one of the greatest patriots and public servants in our history. And I have lost a dear friend. I was lucky to know him and work with him and am comforted now by great memories of our times together and by the words he spoke to me last summer when he was recovering from the brain cancer surgery: ‘I want to live as long as I can but if my life ends soon as a result of this cancer, I will have been blessed to have lived a great life. So I am going to go forward with a lot of gratitude and joy every day I can.’ Hadassah and I send our love and prayers to Cindy and the entire McCain family.”
Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): “John McCain was a war hero, a strong, independent fighter and my friend. Our country lost an iconic leader today, and I will miss him terribly.
“John and I both ended our final call a few weeks ago by telling each other, ‘I love you,’ and that was how we felt about one another. There will never be another John McCain. Landra and I join the country in mourning his passing and offer our condolences to Cindy and his family.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Senator McCain was one of the great political figures of our time. He fought tirelessly for a strong transatlantic Alliance, and he had an impact far beyond the borders of his own country. With his passing, we are losing a person whose personal courage and sincerity also guided his political actions. It was John McCain’s firm conviction that all political activity must aim to uphold and promote freedom, democracy and the rule of law. His death is a loss for all those who share this belief.”
French President Emmanuel Macron: “John McCain was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country. His voice will be missed. Our respectful thoughts go to his beloved ones.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “Senator John McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions. Canadians join Americans tonight in celebrating his life and mourning his passing.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen: “I’ll remember John McCain as a friend & a fighter. He never backed down from his beliefs & forever strived for a more peaceful & prosperous world. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, thank you.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of John McCain, a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel. I will always treasure the constant friendship he showed to the people of Israel and to me personally.
“His support for Israel never waivered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom. The State of Israel salutes John McCain.”