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Hear John McCain's final words to the public

Former aide Rick Davis reads the late Sen. John McCain's farewell statement to the public.

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 4:40 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2018 4:40 PM

There's a great tradition of farewell addresses in American life, usually written by departing presidents saying goodbye to our nation after their terms in office.

But Sen. John McCain, a man whose patriotic stature rivals and even exceeds many presidents, issued his farewell address in a letter read two days after his death by his long-time aide Rick Davis. As emotional as it was for Davis to read, it was equally poignant for those of us who admired McCain to listen to.

As with all farewell addresses, it offered a distillation of hard-won wisdom from his life in war and peace.

George Washington's Farewell Address is the first and perhaps still most iconic leave-taking in American history and established a tradition that McCain followed by instinct.

Washington's Farewell begins with an expression of gratitude to his "friends and fellow citizens" for a lifetime of service, an admission of having made mistakes and an expression of hope that those mistakes are outweighed by his attempt to serve our nation with honor.

McCain did just that at the outset of his address to his "Fellow Americans," writing: "I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them."

Farewell addresses also define core principles of our country, as McCain's did: "We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world."

But the other great tradition of farewell addresses is that they offer a warning to future generations. Washington warned about the forces that could destroy our democratic republic, drawing on the lessons of his life and understanding of history, a subject I covered extensively in my book, "Washington's Farewell." Andrew Jackson's farewell warned against the siren song of secession. Dwight David Eisenhower famously warned against the rise of the "military industrial complex." And in January 2017, Barack Obama warned against threats to our democracy at home and abroad.

McCain warned against departing from our deepest ideals, which are the cornerstone of American exceptionalism: "We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been."

It is hard not to hear in those words an implicit diss to President Donald Trump and the divisive politics he has come to symbolize. But the fact that those sentiments have an urgent edge in the current environment is one way to gauge how far we have lurched from traditional American terms of debate. After all, "us and against them" is the opposite of our national motto, e pluribus unum: Out of many, one.

But farewell addresses always offer a redeeming hope, a renewable source of strength we can draw upon to get through hard times. McCain's did the same, reminding Americans that for all our differences and sometimes "vociferous" debates, "we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do."

McCain's final advice was to tap into the wellspring of defiant optimism that has always defined us as Americans: "Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history."

It was an eloquent final statement from a great man who is part of an even greater American tradition. His powerful example in life -- and now in death -- can continue to inspire and guide us through stormy skies.

Godspeed John McCain, from your fellow Americans.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
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Lamar221238
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Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
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