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Sen. John McCain, in a final message to the United States written before his death, said that he "lived and died a proud American" and expressed hope that the country would emerge from its current trials "stronger than before."
"Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here," the Republican senator and former GOP presidential nominee wrote in a letter read by advisor Rick Davis on Monday.
The letter closes: "Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history. Farewell fellow Americans, God bless you, and God bless America."
McCain, a longtime lawmaker from Arizona and Navy veteran who endured brutal torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, died Saturday at age 81 after a struggle with brain cancer. The senator's outsized presence came not only from his military and political record but also from his frank talk and recent willingness to call out President Donald Trump for perceived violations of American norms when few others in his Republican Party would.
After briefing reporters on memorial services that will take place this week throughout the country, a tearful Davis read the senator's final message to the country. In it, McCain said he hoped that his "love for America will be weighed favorably" against the "mistakes" he made in his life.
The senator — who returned to Washington last year after his cancer diagnosis to warn about the effect tribalism and hostility could have on the chamber's ability to govern — emphasized decency and civility in his letter. The occasional critic of Trump also appeared to lament the president's effect on civil discourse in the country.
"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," McCain wrote, in what seems to be a reference to the president's nationalist rhetoric about making America "great" again, and his effort to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The senator said he still had a "heartfelt faith" in Americans that he felt in 2008, when he conceded the presidential election to former President Barack Obama.
Read McCain's farewell message in full:
"My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,
"Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. 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.
"I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. 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.
"I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America's causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life's fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
"'Fellow Americans' – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. 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. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.
"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.
"We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But 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.
"Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.
"I feel it powerfully still.'
"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.
"Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America."