A final farewell was held for Sen. John McCain on Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral, where former president Barack Obama gave one of a handful of eulogies. During the speech, Obama referred to the maverick senator as an “extraordinary man” who was able to transcend party for the betterment of a nation.
“We come to celebrate an extraordinary man. A warrior, a statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America,” Obama began. “President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest level of politics. He made us better presidents, just as he made the senate better. Just as he made this country better… He had been to hell and back, yet somehow never lost his energy or optimism or zest for life. So cancer did not scare him, and he would maintain that buoyant spirit until the very end — too stubborn to sit still, opinionated as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends, and most of all, his family.
“John and I could not have been more different,” Obama opined. “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 calculations was about once a day. But for all of our differences, for all the times we sparred, I never tried to hide — and I think John came to understand — the long-standing admiration I had for him.
“Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was,” he continued. “Now, in fact, John was a pretty conservative guy… 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 archaic rules and procedures of the Senate. He knew even in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions [and] those norms are what bind us together, that give shape and order to our common life, even when we disagree.”
Obama later spoke of the frequent conversations he’d have with Sen. McCain in the Oval Office. “We’d talk about policy and about family, and the state of our politics, and our disagreements didn’t go away during the course of these conversations; those were real, and they were often deep,” he maintained. “But we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights… We laughed with each other, and we learned from each other. 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. We never doubted we were on the same team.”
Additional tributes were given by former president George W. Bush, former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and daughter Meghan McCain.
McCain was a two-time presidential hopeful, having first competed for the Republican nomination back in 2000. He first entered politics back in 1982, when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was later elected senator in the state of Arizona in 1986. Prior to his life in politics, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy. He was held as a P.O.W. for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War.
He died following a relatively short battle with brain cancer on Aug. 25. His memorial was broadcast across all major news networks, including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Watch Obama’s eulogy above.