Former presidents, congressional leaders, and the military commend John McCain's storied life and service

  • Sen. John McCain died on Saturday, one day after his family announced he would be discontinuing his brain cancer treatment.
  • Former presidents, world leaders, and Congress mourned his passing and offered their condolences for his family.

Sen. John McCain died on Saturday, one day after his family announced he would be discontinuing his brain cancer treatment.

McCain, a six-term US senator, earned both praise and criticism during his long tenure. But despite political differences, he earned the respect from his colleagues for his storied military service and plain-spoken views.

Former presidents, world leaders, and Congress mourned his passing and offered their condolences for his family.

Here’s what they had to say:

Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama

White House Flickr

“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.

We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.

Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family.”

Former President George W. Bush

“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.

He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.

Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathies to Cindy and the entire McCain family, and our thanks to God for the life of John McCain.”

Former President Bill Clinton

Win McNamee/Getty Images

“Senator John McCain believed that every citizen has a responsibility to make something of the freedoms given by our Constitution, and from his heroic service in the Navy to his 35 years in Congress, he lived by his creed every day.

He was a skilled, tough politician, as well as a trusted colleague alongside whom Hillary was honored to serve in the Senate. He frequently put partisanship aside to do what he thought was best for the country, and was never afraid to break the mould if it was the right thing to do.

I will always be especially grateful for his leadership in our successful efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Cindy, his mother, Roberta, his children, and his entire family.”

Former secretary of state and former Senate colleague Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton spoke on the phone with NBC host Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” Sunday:

“He understood in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be an American and how important it was for us to, yes, disagree and differ, but at the end of the day come together to work together and trust each other and get things done.

He’ll be missed for many, many reasons, but I think the example that he set of working across the aisle and working to bring people together here at home and around the world is one we should remember.

… He understood that we have been through careless times before at home and abroad. But, our institutions are being severely tested right now.

… He was, in every way he knew how, trying to sound the alarm and to get all of us as Americans who understand the ideal that we stood for around the globe, that if we turn our backs on leadership on behalf of human rights and the kind of future we want to forge for our children and grandchildren, we’ll be giving up on what he fought for and what he was in prison for and what he stood for and in a long line of American patriots.”

Former President Jimmy Carter

“John McCain was a man of honour, a true patriot in the best sense of the word.

Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service and for his steadfast integrity as a member of the United States Senate.

Rosalynn and I extend our sincere condolences to Senator McCain’s family and to the people of Arizona whom he represented so forthrightly for so many years.”

President Donald Trump

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!,” Trump said on Twitter.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

“America and Freedom have lost one of her greatest champions,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of McCain’s closest friends, said on Twitter. “And I’ve lost one of my dearest friends and mentor.”

“I will need some time to absorb this, but I want Cindy -and the entire McCain family – to know they are in my prayers,” Graham added.

Former Gov. of Alaska and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin

“Today we lost an American original,” Palin said in a tweet. “Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life – and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“Senator John McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Canadians join Americans tonight in celebrating his life and mourning his passing.”

Defence secretary Jim Mattis

“We have lost a man who steadfastly represented the best ideals of our country,” Mattis said, according to The Military Times. “As a Naval Officer and defiant prisoner of war, John McCain stood with his brothers-in-arms until they returned home together.”

“Passionately committed to our country, Senator McCain always put service to the Nation before self,” Mattis added. “He recognised that for our experiment in democracy to long endure, people of action and passion must serve. In this he represented what he believed, that ‘a shared purpose does not claim our identity – on the contrary, it enlarges your sense of self.'”

“His was a life well lived, one whose actions epitomized the motto of his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy: non sibi, sed patriae – ‘not for self, but for country.'”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Alex Wong/Getty Images

“Today is a deeply sad day for the Senate and for our nation. Elaine and I join all Americans in mourning the passing of our dear friend and colleague Senator John McCain.

In an era filled with cynicism about national unity and public service, John McCain’s life shone as a bright example. He showed us that boundless patriotism and self-sacrifice are not outdated concepts or clich├ęs, but the building blocks of an extraordinary American life.

Generations of McCains have served in our great Navy. John followed their example with distinction. And from his cell in Hanoi to the halls of the Senate, he never stopped fighting with courage and determination – first for his country, then for the people of Arizona, and always for the ideals he believed in most.

It is fitting that this war hero and history-changing legislator should leave us as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. John was a constant advocate for his fellow veterans and those currently serving in uniform, standing up for the benefits and care they so earned by defending our freedom. His dedication to them is just one reason among so many why he earned the utmost respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

It’s an understatement to say the Senate will not be the same without our friend John. I will treasure the many memories we’ve shared together through the years.

The nation mourns the loss of a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service. The Senate is keeping Cindy, the McCain family, all John’s friends and staff, and the people of Arizona in our prayers at this tremendously difficult time.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York

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“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them.

His dedication to his country and the military were unsurpassed, and maybe most of all, he was a truth teller – never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare. The Senate, the United States, and the world are lesser places without John McCain.

Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin

Win McNamee/Getty Images

“This is a sad day for the United States. Our country has lost a decorated war hero and statesman.

John McCain was a giant of our time-not just for the things he achieved, but for who he was and what he fought for all his life. John put principle before politics. He put country before self. He was one of the most courageous men of the century. He will always be listed among freedom’s most gallant and faithful servants.

Our hearts are with his wife, Cindy, his children, and his grandchildren. This Congress, this country mourn with them.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California

“The nation is in tears. Today, with the passing of John McCain, Congress and America have lost a leader and public servant of deep patriotism, outstanding bravery and undaunted spirit.

Compelled by his unshakeable faith and deep love of country, he dedicated his life to defending both America and the American idea – fighting tirelessly to ensure that our nation always remains a land of justice, freedom and hope.

Over the course of John McCain’s years of distinguished service, whether as a naval officer, Member of Congress, US Senator or presidential candidate, we all saw firsthand his integrity, humility, courage and grace.

He never forgot the great duty he felt to care for our nation’s heroes, dedicating his spirit and energy to ensuring that no man or woman in uniform was left behind on the battlefield or once they returned home.”

United States Naval Academy

“The Naval Academy is mourning the loss of one of our most distinguished graduates, Sen. John McCain (USNA ’58),” the United States Naval Academy, McCain’s alma mater, said on Twitter. “His life of service to our country is a legacy that will continue to be revered.”

US Marine Corps commandant Robert Neller

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Shawn Valosin

“We have lost a great leader of our Nation,” Neller said on Twitter. “Sen. McCain, thank you for your commitment, drive and relentless pursuit to make our military better.”

“We have the watch and will drive on to protect the Nation,” Neller added, “To the McCain family, our sympathies & your Marines are here for you.”

US Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley

“This American hero was an extraordinary supporter of our Soldiers, Families, and Veterans,” Milley wrote on Twitter. “A great supporter of the US Army whose leadership will be missed, but his legacy will live on. Thank you for all you have done for all of us in uniform.”

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona

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“Words cannot express the sorrow I feel at John McCain’s passing,” Flake, a fellow Arizona senator, said. “The world has lost a hero and a statesman. Cindy and the McCain family have lost a loving husband and father. I have lost a wonderful friend.”

Flake also wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post, in which he described McCain’s “life to service.”

“Today, I am grateful for John McCain,” Flake wrote. “I’m grateful for the long and meaningful miles he travelled, and for having the privilege of having travelled just a few of those miles with him.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

“Senator John McCain was a patriot, and an extraordinary American war hero.

Born into a storied Navy family, he spent his entire life in service to his country, including 22 years in the Navy, five and a half of which were spent under the boots of North Vietnamese communists in a Hanoi prison.

First elected to Congress during the Reagan Revolution, he championed the strong national defence that he knew would help ensure the survival of freedom and liberty across the globe. He did things his way, and conducted two campaigns for President of the United States with honour and integrity.

Today, the State of Arizona, and our entire nation, have lost a great public servant. He was larger than life. Although he and I sometimes disagreed, I was deeply privileged to serve with him and proud to call him a friend.

Heidi and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Cindy, and to the entire McCain family, as they grieve the loss of a loving husband, father, and grandfather. May he rest in peace.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

“John McCain’s sacrifices to his country are immeasurable. With his passing today, America has lost more than a leader and more than a senator. We have lost a true American hero.

As a colleague in the Senate and a friend, I drew personal inspiration from his leadership, intellect and moral courage. He set the standard for what we should expect from our soldiers and from our public servants of all levels.

In this time of grief, I hope John’s family finds comfort in knowing that this extraordinary man touched countless lives, and his memory will continue to set the standard of leadership and moral resolve for future generations.”

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

Alex Wong / Getty Images

“Susan and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the family of [Sen. John McCain] – an American patriot,” Pompeo said on Twitter. “We wish you fair winds and following seas.”

Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee

“Sen McCain was a courageous warrior who served and suffered for the freedom we all enjoy,” Huckabee wrote on Twitter. “I lost the GOP nomination to him in 2008 but we never once had a cross word.”

“After he beat me I campaigned vigorously for him. No regrets. My heart goes out to His family,” Huckabee added.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

“I count it as a blessing to have had the honour to serve with John McCain in the Senate and on the Armed Services Committee,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “If there ever was a true American patriot, John was that patriot. I’ll miss his strength and his maverick spirit, but most of all I’ll miss his kindness.”

“He believes in what he believes in, and he’s going to go out there and fight for it,” Warren said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Former Secretary of State Sen. John Kerry

“John McCain was an American original – guts, grit, and ultimately grace personified. All of us were blessed by the example he shared with us of a life in service to country. I loved John’s will to fight but respected even more his power to forgive.

We travelled together to Vietnam and together, we found common ground in the most improbable place. I stood with John, the two of us alone, in the very cell in the Hanoi Hilton where years of his life were lived out in pain but always in honour.

If you ever needed to take the measure of John McCain, just count the days and years he spent in that tiny dank place and ask yourself whether you could make it there an hour.

John always said ‘a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed.’ He loved to debate and disagree. But one thing John always believed was that at some point, America’s got to come together.

John McCain showed all of us how to bridge the divide between a protester and a POW, and how to find common ground even when it was improbable. I will be grateful for that lesson every day of my life.”

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