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What we can learn from John McCain

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By Jim Rohrer

I believe that a leader must be about more than conducting the day-to-day business of the organization he or she leads. A true leader stands for the principles and traditions that bind us to that organization and cause us to be proud of being part of something unusually good and worth supporting.
I recently was reminded of the words of Sen. John McCain when he was nominated to be the Republican candidate for president.
He said: “I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for its many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith, and the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I wasn’t my own man anymore, I was my country’s.”
I was touched by the remembrances of Susan Collins, a fellow senator. Like McCain, she doesn’t always mindlessly follow the dictates of her party. She reminisced about Sen. McCain’s role in teaching her to follow her belief system, even when it seems politically expedient to go a different way.
We can learn from him as Sen. Collins did that political parties are loyal to their own self-interest, which is often at odds with what’s best for America. He was always an AMERICAN first.
As we listen to the accolades from fellow legislators, it’s obvious that John McCain stood on principle. He vehemently opposed torture of prisoners of war. He opposed it not because it doesn’t work, but because, as he said, “It’s not what we do.”
For Sen. McCain, principles were the basis of decision-making, not expediency. The world can certainly benefit from this lesson. We can learn from Sen. McCain to fight hard for your cause, but to fight fair and never lose your civility.
It’s clear that he was a warrior all his life, whether in a hut in Vietnam, as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. senator. McCain fought like a tiger. But we also remember a time during his presidential campaign when he took the microphone from a lady who was making disparaging comments about his opponent.
He responded that Obama was a good man with whom he (McCain) disagreed. In his concession speech, he asked voters to join together to support his opponent, and he meant it.
One famous McCain quotation, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself,” seemed to sum up what his life was about. He took a stand, which prevented health-care availability from being taken from millions of Americans. It was a decision that has been loudly criticized by his party’s mimes. We can learn from this example as well.
Have you ever noted that politicians never seem to admit mistakes? The ever-determined McCain was open to the idea that he might not always be right. We can all learn from this self-deprecation, which was refreshing.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said: “He served his country, and not always right, he made a lot of mistakes, but served his country, and I hope, honorably.” Honorably, indeed.
I was amused to note that he asked his two political opponents, former Presidents Bush and Obama, to eulogize him. That’s what a maverick would do. I sincerely hope that Americans learn from his life that leaders like John McCain don’t come along very often.
When they do, they deserve our support and to encompass the American ideals for which they stand. He has demonstrated that character matters and is what America is about.

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)