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The Funeral of Senator John McCain; Tribute by George W. Bush; Tribute by Barack Obama. Aired 11a-12:30p ET
Aired September 1, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:57]JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: So when I first told John that I had decided not to run for the Senate again in 2012, he was puzzled and frankly even a little bit angry.
But then the next day he called me -- and this is my best recollection of the conversation. He said you know, "I've been thinking if you go out into the private sector, you're going to make some more money. And then you and Hadassah can afford to buy a second home in Jerusalem that has an extra room for me with a balcony where we can look out and talk about that city and its history."
Well, since then when I talked to John or visited with him, he would ask me, "Joey, have you made enough money yet to buy that place in Jerusalem?" And I would answer "Not yet, Johnny. But I'm getting closer." Now sadly fate has intervened before we could realize that dream.
But I am comforted by the fact that Jerusalem is not just a holy and historic city. It is also the visionary symbol of the dreams that all people share and the destiny that we all desire. It is the original heavenly shining city on the hill. In that sense for many people in the life of the spirit, Jerusalem, the shining city on the hill are really heaven.
And it is to that heavenly Jerusalem where I am confident the soul of John Sidney McCain III is going now. And I want to imagine that there is going to be a beautiful home waiting for him there with a balcony from which he can contemplate the shining city and hopefully inspire us here on earth to conduct ourselves with just some of the patriotism, principles and courage that characterize his magnificent life of service to America and to so many noble causes greater than himself.
Godspeed -- dear friend, may angels sing you to your eternal home.
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Our country has had the good fortune that at times of national trial a few great personalities have emerged to remind us of our essential unity and inspire us to fulfill our sustaining values. John McCain was one of those gifts of destiny.
[11:04:58] I met John for the first time in April, 1973 at a White House reception for prisoners returned from captivity in Vietnam. He had been much on my mind during the negotiations to end the Vietnam War, partly also because his father -- then commander-in-chief of the Pacific Command -- when briefing the President answered references to his son by saying only "I pray for him".
In the McCain family, national service was its own reward that did not allow for special treatment. I thought of that when his Vietnamese captors during the final phase of negotiations offered to release John so that he could return with me on the official plane that had brought me to Hanoi.
Against all my instincts, I thanked him for the offer, but refused it. I wondered what John would say when we finally met. His greeting was both self-effacing and moving. "Thank you for saving my honor."
He did not tell me then or ever that he had had an opportunity to be freed years earlier but had refused; a decision for which he had to endure additional periods of isolation and hardship. Nor did he ever speak of his captivity again during the near half century of close friendship.
John's focus was on creating a better future. As a senator he supported the restoration of relations with Vietnam, helped bring it about on a bipartisan basis in the Clinton administration, and became one of the advocates of reconciliation with his erstwhile enemy.
Honor was pure (ph) John's loadstar. It is an intangible quality. It is not obligatory. It has no written code. It reflects an inward compulsion, free of self-interest. It fulfills a cause, not a personal ambition.
It represents what a society lives for beyond the necessities of the moment. Law (ph) makes life possible, honor ennobled him. For John it was a way of life.
John returned to an America divided over its presidency, divided over the war, amidst all the turmoil and civic unrest, divided over the best way to protect our country, and over whether it should be respected for its power or its ideals.
[11:10:00] John came back from the war and declared that this is a false choice. America owed it to itself to embrace both strengths and ideals in decades of congressional service. Ultimately as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John was an indefatigable exponent of an America strong enough to vindicate its purpose.
But John believed also in a compassionate America, governed by -- guided by core principles for which American foreign policy must always stand. "With liberty and justice for all" is not an empty sentiment he argued, it is the foundation of our national consciousness.
To John, American advantages (ph) had universal applicability. I do not believe he said that there's an Arab exception any more than there is a Black exception or an Asian or Latin exception. He warned against temptation of withdrawal from the world. We will not thrive in the world he warned when our leadership and ideals are absent. We would not deserve it.
In this manner John McCain's name became synonymous with an America that reached out to oblige the powerful to be lawful (ph) and give hope to the oppressed. John (INAUDIBLE) academic maxims; he was in different lines of all these battles for decency and freedom.
He was an engaged warrior fighting for his causes with ebullience, with courage, and with humility to the limit of the feasible, and sometimes miraculously even beyond. John was all about hope.
In a commencement speech at Ohio Wesleyan University John summed up the essence of his engagement of a lifetime. No one of us, if they have character, leaves behind a wasted life. Like most people of my age I feel a longing for what is lost and cannot be restored but if the happy pursuit and casual beauty of youth prove ephemeral something better can endure and endure until our last moment on earth. And that is the (INAUDIBLE) and a lovely gift (ph) at a moment in our lives when we sacrifice for something greater than ourselves.
[11:14:59] Heroes inspire us by the matter-of-factness of their sacrifice and the elevation of the root vision. The world will be lonelier without John McCain -- his ebullience, his faith in America and his instinctive sense of moral duty. None of us will ever forget how even in his parting John has bestowed on us a much needed moment of unity and renewed faith in the possibilities of America. Henceforth, the country's honor is ours to sustain (ph).
[11:16:14] ("AMAZING GRACE" SUNG BY THE U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY GLEE CLUB)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cindy and the McCain Family, I am honored to be with you to offer my sympathies, and to celebrate a great life. The nation joins your extraordinary family in grief and gratitude for John McCain.
Some lives are so vivid it's difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant and distinctive it's hard to think of them stilled. A man who seldom rested is laid to rest; and his absence is tangible like the silence after a mighty roar.
The thing about John's life was the amazing sweep of it -- from a tiny prison cell in Vietnam, to the floor of the United States Senate; from troublemaking plebe to presidential candidate. Wherever John passed throughout the world, people immediately knew there was a leader in their midst. In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country.
For John and me there was a personal journey -- a hard-fought political history. Back in the day, he could frustrate me.
And I know he'd say the same thing about me. But he also made me better.
In recent years, we sometimes talk of that intense period like football players remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away. In the end, I got to enjoy one of life's great gifts -- the friendship of John McCain. And I'll miss him.
Moments before my last debate -- ever -- with Senator John Kerry in Phoenix, I was trying to gather some thoughts in the holding room. I felt a presence, opened my eyes, and six inches from my face was McCain, who yelled, "Relax. Relax."
John was, above all, a man with a code. He lived by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country. He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen. He was honest, no matter whom it offended; presidents were not spared.
He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings. He loved freedom, with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life -- a dignity that does not stop at borders, and cannot be erased by dictators.
Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He'd not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy -- to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places.
[11:25:00] One friend from his Naval Academy days recalls how John while a lowly plebe reacted to seeing an upperclassman verbally abuse a steward. Against all tradition, he told the jerk to pick on someone his own size. It was a familiar refrain during his six decades of service.
Where did such strength and conviction come from? Perhaps from a family where honor was in the atmosphere, or from the firsthand experience of cruelty which left physical reminders that lasted his whole life, or from some deep well of moral principle.
Whatever the cause, it was this combination of courage and decency that defined John's calling -- and so closely paralleled the calling of his country. It's this combination of courage and decency that makes the American military something new in history -- an unrivaled power for good.
It's this combination of courage and decency that set America on a journey into the world -- to liberate death camps, to stand guard against extremism, and to work for the true peace that comes only with freedom.
John felt these commitments in his bones. It is a tribute to his moral compass that dissidents and prisoners in so many places -- from Russia, to North Korea, to China -- knew that he was on their side. And I think their respect meant more to him than any medals and honors life could bring.
The passion for fairness and justice extended to our own military. When a private was poorly equipped or a seaman was overworked in terrible conditions, John enjoyed nothing more than dressing down an admiral or a general. He remained the troublesome plebe to the end.
Those in political power were not exempt. At various points throughout his long career, John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist, "We are better than this. America is better than this." John, as he was the first to tell you, was not a perfect man, but he dedicated his life to national ideals that are as perfect as men and women have yet conceived. He was motivated by a vision of America carried ever forward, every up -- ever upward on the strength of its principles.
He saw our country not only as a physical place or power, but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations, as an advocate for the oppressed, as a defender of the peace; as a promise unwavering, undimmed, unequaled.
The strength of a democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America somehow has always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at the time of greatest need. John was born to meet that kind of challenge -- to defend and demonstrate the defining ideals of our nation.
If we're ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder, "We are better than this. America is better than this."
John was a restless soul. He really didn't glory in success or wallow in failure because he was always on to the next thing. A friend said, "He can't stay in the same experience." One of his books ended with the words, "And I moved on."
John has moved on. He would probably not want us to dwell on it, but we are better for his presence among us. The world is smaller for his departure. And we will remember him as he was -- unwavering, undimmed, unequaled.
[11:30:12] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To John's beloved family, Mrs. McCain, to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Biden, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore -- and as John would say my friends, we come to celebrate an extraordinary man -- a warrior, a statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.
President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents just as he made the Senate better, just as he made this country better. so for someone like John to ask you while he is still alive to stand and speak of him when he is gone is a precious and singular honor.
Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year I'll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. But after our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John's essential qualities.
To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a Senator should be and he didn't want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John's disdain for self-pity. He had been to hell and back and yet somehow never lost his energy or his optimism or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him and he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end -- too stubborn to sit still, opinionated as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all to his family.
It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor, a little bit of a mischievous streak. After all, what better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience.
And most of all it showed a largeness of spirit; an ability to see past differences in search of common ground. And in fact on the surface, John and I could not have been more different.
We're of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father. John was the scion of one of America's most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool; John not so much.
We were standard bearers of different American political traditions and throughout my presidency John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up, which by his calculation was about once a day.
But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide -- and I think John came to understand -- the long- standing admiration that I had for him.
By his own account John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that's understandable. What faster way to distinguish yourself when you're the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny.
 Eventually though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself? And for John, that meant answering the highest of callings -- serving his country in a time of war.
Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel.
That brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote in the book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book. "Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."
In captivity John learned, in ways that few of us ever will, the meaning of those words -- how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test again and again and again.
And that's why when John spoke of virtues like service and duty, it didn't ring hollow. They weren't just words to him. It was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die and it forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country? What might we risk everything for?
You know much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. In fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me -- I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics; that some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.
John cared about the institutions of self-government, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, Rule of Law, separation of powers, even the arcane rules and procedures of the Senate. He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. They give shape and order to our common life -- even when we disagree, especially when we disagree.
John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy our democracy will not work. That's why he was willing to buck his own party at times; occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That's why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate; and the fact that it earned him good coverage didn't hurt either.
[11:39:35] John understood as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived; but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.
It has been mentioned today, and we've seen footage this week of John pushing back against supporters who challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign; I was grateful but I wasn't surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John's instinct.
I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. And I'm certain that in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign, he saw himself as defending America's character not just mine. He considered it the imperative of every citizen that loves this country to treat all people fairly.
And finally, while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America's role as the one indispensable (ph) nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform; service members like Doug, Jimmy, and Jack who followed their father's footsteps, as well as families that serve alongside our troops.
But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values like Rule of Law and human rights and insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being.
Of course, John was the first to tell us that he was not perfect. Like all of us who go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us there was no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back.
It is no secret -- that has been mentioned -- that he had a temper; and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold. His jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you -- not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you.
But to know John was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws and his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself; and that self-awareness made him all the more compelling.
We didn't advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency, John would come over to the White House; and we'd just sit and talk in the Oval Office, just the two of us. We would talk about policy and we'd talk about family and we'd talk about the state of our politics.
And our disagreements didn't go away during these private conversations; those were real and they were often deep but we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights and we laughed with each other and we learned from each other. And we never doubted the other man's sincerity or the other man's patriotism, or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team.
[11:45:06] We never doubted we were on the same team. For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched and fought and sacrificed and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals here at home and to do our best to advance them around the world.
We saw this country as a place where anything is possible and citizenship is an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
More than once during his career John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. I am sure it has been noted that Roosevelt's "Men in the Arena" oration seems tailored to John. Most of you know it. Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short but always relish a good fight; a contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Isn't that the spirit we celebrate this week that striving to be better, to do better, to be worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed? So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty; trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that. Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be but what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today.
What better way to honor John McCain's life of service than, as best we can, follow his example to prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few; it is open to all of us. And in fact it is demanded of all of us as citizens of this great republic.
That's perhaps how we honor him best -- by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power; that there are some things that are worth risking everything for -- principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding.
At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt. May God bless John McCain; may God bless this country he served so well.
("BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC" SUNG BY U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY GLEE CLUB AND BRASS ENSEMBLE)
VERY REV. RANDOLPH MARSHALL HOLLERITH, DEAN Washington NATIONAL CATHEDRAL: Let us pray. O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother John. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage.
In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before -- through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Most merciful god, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal graciously with John's family and friends in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness and strength to meet the days to come -- through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
KELLY AYOTTE, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: A reading from the Book of Wisdom.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction, but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished; their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little; they will receive great good because God tested them and found them worthy of himself. Those who trust in him will understand truth. And the faithful will abide with him in love because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones and he watches over his elect.
The word of the Lord.
CROWD: Thanks be to God.
("THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD" SUNG BY THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL CHOIR)
SIDNEY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: A reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
So we are always confident even though we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord for we walk by faith not by sight.
Yes, we do have confidence and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
The word of the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Thanks be to God.
(HYMN, "HOW GREAT THOUGH ART")
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: A reading from the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 15, verses 12 through 13.
Jesus said this is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. No greater love than this to lay down one's life for one's friends.
The Word of the Lord.
CONGREGATION: Thanks be to God.
REV. EDWARD REESE (Homily): Let us remember John McCain with the words of the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.
"What I do is me. For that I came. But I say more, the just man, justices, keeps grace, that keeps all his goings graces; acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is, Christ. For Christ plays in 10,000 places, lovely in limbs, lovely in eyes, not his, to the father through the features of men's faces."
Don't misunderstand me. I am not recommending John for sainthood. He was so very human and for that reason we can see God in his life.
He was the just man, justicing. For John McCain every human being deserved to be treated justly.
He saw God Our Father through the features of every person especially the poor and those persecuted by power and those in need.
John was a man who loved and he knew that love is seen in actions, in doing.
He was so often surrounded by the servicemen and women he had such a special affection for. We can hear him in Shakespeare's words, "But we, we shall be remembered. We, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers."
Love is truly shown in action and God in His love has given us this warrior as a sign, who acted in God's eye what in God's eye he was.
Though we are sad we do celebrate the life of our friend, husband, father, senator, and warrior, by because he did keep grace, Christ- play in 10,000 places.
He gave us an example of how to live, how to be the just man. And with St. Paul, John can now say, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."
Goodbye John McCain.
"DANNY BOY" SUNG BY RENEE FLEMING
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Jesus taught us, so we now pray.
Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory. Forever and ever.
REV. CANON JAN NAYLOR COPE, WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL PROVOST: For our brother John.
Let us pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ Who said, I am resurrection and I am life.
Lord you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress. Draw near to us who mourn for John and dry the tears of those who weep.
CONGREGATION: Hear us Lord.
COPE: You wept at the grave of Lazarus your friend. Comfort us in our sorrow.
CONGREGATION: Hear us Lord.
COPE: You raised the dead to life. Give to our brother eternal life.
CONGREGATION: Hear us Lord.
COPE: You promised paradise to the thief who repented. Bring our brother to the joys of Heaven.
CONGREGATION: Hear us Lord.
COPE: Comfort us in our sorrows at the death of our brother. Let our faith be our consolation and eternal life our hope.
RT. REV. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, BISHOP OF WASHINGTON: Father of all we pray to you for John and for all those whom we love but see no longer.
Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
(ANTHEM "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give rest oh Christ, to Your servant with your saints.
CONGREGATION: Where sorrow and pain are no more. Not a sigh but light of bliss (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You Only are Immortal; The Creator and Maker of mankind and we are mortal formed of the earth and to earth shall we return.
For so did You ordain when You created me saying, you are dust and to dust you shall return.
All of us go down to the dust yet even at the grave we make our song, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
CONGREGATION: Give rest oh Christ, to Thy servants with Thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more; neither signing but life everlasting.
BUDDE: Into your hands oh merciful Savior we commend Your servant John. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech You, a sheep of Your own flock, a lamb of Your own fold, a sinner of Your own redeeming, receive him into the arms of Your mercy and to the blessed rest of everlasting peace and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
BUDDE: And may the God of peace Who brought again from the dead Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will in the days you have, and in the lives to which you have been called, working as He worked in you, what is pleasing in His sight.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you now and always.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us go forth in the name of Christ.
CONGREGATION: Thanks be to God.