STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

John McCain on defeat and determination

John McCain knew what it was like to be down. Way down. Here are some of the late senator's words on highs and lows during his decades in public service.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 10:26 AM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 10:43 AM

John McCain knew what it was like to be down. Way, way down.

From the more than five years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison camp to his implication in the "Keating 5" scandal to his losses in not one but two presidential elections, he was someone well-acquainted with hardship. And he never hid that hardship. In fact, he spoke about it regularly -- talking about how he had learned over time to deal with the setbacks in his life.

"He failed a lot," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon in a speech honoring McCain. "But he never quit."

With the country mourning McCain's passing, I went through a handful of his biggest speeches -- his 2008 concession to Barack Obama, his address upon returning to the Senate following his brain cancer diagnosis and even the letter he penned to be read posthumously by one-time campaign manager Rick Davis on Monday -- to pluck out McCain's most powerful thoughts about loss, longing and the mistakes he made -- and what can be learned from them.

1. "I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here." (2008 concession speech)

2. "I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth." (On not calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol building, April 2000)

3. "We've all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I've let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy." (Senate floor speech, July 2017)

4. "Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else's." (Posthumous letter, August 2018)

5. "I think I'm going to miss him more than I can say. We disagreed on most issues, but I admitted -- but I admired his passion for his convictions, his patience with the hard and sometimes dull work of legislating, and his uncanny sense for when differences could be bridged and his cause advanced by degrees." (Speech at Ted Kennedy's memorial service, August 2009)

6. "I have served America's cause -- the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice -- all my adult life. I haven't always served it well. I haven't even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past." (Liberty medal speech, October 2017)

7. "I don't think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people." (Senate floor speech, July 2017)

8. "In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans, who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president, is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving." (2008 concession speech)

9. "I don't mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God, I've had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I learned an important lesson along the way: In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test." (2008 Republican National Committee speech)

10. "I have, sometimes unwittingly and often imperfectly, served that cause all my adult life. Like your service, mine began here in this place of honor and honor's demands. I arrived a rebel without a cause, and left much the same. But I would discover that a sense of honor had been imparted to me here that would speak to me in the darkest hours." (Speech at US Naval Academy, October 2017)

Anyone can be magnanimous and gracious in victory. Few can do so in the face of defeat or disappointment.

John McCain was one of the latter.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
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
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
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
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 65°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather