McCain funeral a clarion call for a more perfect union

McCain funeral a clarion call for a more perfect union
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On a world stage befitting the ideals of our Republic, Americans of all stripes who hunger for human decency fed their political soul for at least a few hours.

Words and accolades delivered in memory of a strong, humble, and heroic American came at a moment that Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCummings to lie in state at the Capitol Elizabeth Warren should concern Donald Trump 'bigly' Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show MORE knew too well our country needed most. The selfless public servant exemplified what is great about America: grit, humility, drive, honesty, compassion.  He stood firm for what he believed in, but his resolve for the truth and his desire to find the path to compromise was his true strength. For some, it was a sign of weakness. But a true measure of a patriot is not love of party but duty to country.


My question to every elected official across our land: What is your legacy? How will you be remembered? Who will rise to speak about your character and what will they say? Will you be compared to John McCain or perhaps someone else? Or do you care?

In a moment that I will never forget and befitting the life that John McCain had strived to lead, his daughter, Meghan, said during the service at National Cathedral: “America does not boast because she has no need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.” John McCain truly believed in that American ideal.  

As a first generation American, I can testify to the greatness of John McCain’s America, and that of Presidents Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCombatting fake news on social media will take a village Is Trudeau on the verge of a shocking reversal of fortune? Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency MORE, George W. Bush and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHouse Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry Democrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency MORE. For 25 years I was privileged to be a humble public servant, the Congressional staffer who rose from the Senate mail room to become chief of staff to Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Trump lashes out at Pelosi as she visits Jordan to discuss Syria Thomas D'Alesandro III, brother of Nancy Pelosi, dies at 90 MORE, the first woman Speaker of the House and an iconic political figure in her own right. 

I witnessed firsthand the passions of members of Congress for their point of views but who ultimately came together for the common good. I had a front row seat to history in the making: the election of the first African American president; the passage of the Affordable Care Act; the near collapse of our economy; winning the Senate majority and losing the House majority. I stood on the House Floor with the first woman Speaker and in the Oval Office with the president and vice president of the United States and delivered mail to the office of a political giant: Sen. Ted Kennedy.

But nothing in my career had prepared me for what we witnessed over the past few days: a clarion call for unity, a return to our mission to pursue a more perfect union. 

It has become easy to blame a party, a president, the media, for the sorry state of politics today, the lack of civility or respect for others’ views. Pointing a finger has become the standard political pastime and what passes for a rebuttal to the other side’s point of view. 

Brutal political discourse, a hallmark of our freedom of speech, has devolved into hostile questioning of one’s patriotism. The rise of this brand of hateful politics has a silver lining, and it was on full display during the honors and accolades bestowed on Sen. McCain.  

At no time since the 2016 election has the challenge been greater to those Republican officials who have ignored the truth, cowered before power, and refused to protect the dignity of each and every American. I ask: after you witnessed the funeral of John McCain, will you return to the comfortable confines of your Congressional offices and succumb to the hateful brand of divisive politics that has brought us to where we are today? Or will you speak out?

Forget the past but learn from it. John McCain was willing to reconcile with his captors and work to normalize relations with Vietnam. 

Focus on the future. Speak truth to power, and work for the common good. 

Rise to the challenge. John McCain did.

Nadeam Elshami is policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a lobbying law firm. He was formerly chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He has 25 years of experience in Congress, including negotiating policy on behalf of Democratic leadership and forming bipartisan relationships that helped move key pieces of legislation through a gridlocked Congress.