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John McCain says he died 'a proud American' in farewell statement

By Danielle Haynes
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John McCain says he died 'a proud American' in farewell statement
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he considered himself the "luckiest man on earth" in a farewell statement issued two days after his death. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Sen. John McCain said he lived and died a proud American but warned against allowing patriotism to be warped into "tribal rivalries" in a farewell statement issued two days after his death.

Rick Davis, the Republican senator's adviser and family spokesman, read the letter Monday at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix. McCain died Saturday, a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

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"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," the statement reads.

"'Fellow Americans' -- that association has meant more to me than any other. I have lived and died a proud American."

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McCain said he felt like "the luckiest person on earth" and attributed that fortune to his wife and seven children.

Though he offered praise for "the world's greatest republic," the United States, he offered a warning.

"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," the statement read.

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"We are 325 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."

McCain's talk of rivalries may have been in reference to his own with President Donald Trump. The two butted heads over a number of issues -- the Affordable Care Act and the necessity of funding for a border wall -- in Trump's 19 months in office.

Trump offered a cursory acknowledgement of McCain's death Saturday, tweeting: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!"

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Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Trump also ordered the U.S. flag at the White House to fly at half-staff Saturday evening, but it was raised back to full staff just after midnight Sunday. The flag was back at half-staff Monday afternoon after Trump faced criticism for raising the flag and not offering more praise for McCain's service.

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"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Sen. John McCain's service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment," a statement from Trump read.

The U.S. Flag Code says flags should be lowered the day a member of Congress dies and the next day in lieu of a presidential proclamation stating otherwise.

Before the flag was re-lowered to half-staff Monday afternoon, a veterans' group called VoteVets criticized the lack of a presidential proclamation and called Trump "a pathetic, thin-skinned, self-centered, low-class, petty coward."

The flag at the Capitol and at other buildings throughout Washington, D.C., remained at half-staff as of Monday afternoon.

McCain, who was 81 at the time of his death, will lie in state in the Arizona State Capitol and U.S. Capitol before his burial Sunday.

The longtime representative will lie in state at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday with a service at North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday. Former Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to eulogize his former Senate colleague.

After McCain's body is flown to Washington, he will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday. His private funeral will take place at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday and burial for the former Naval pilot will be held in Annapolis, Md., on Sunday.

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Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will give eulogies at his funeral in Washington. McCain also asked Vice President Mike Pence to attend, but didn't want Trump to be there.

Trump said he asked Pence to offer an address at a ceremony Friday at the Capitol.

"At the request of the McCain family, I have also authorized military transportation of Senator McCain's remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy," Trump said.

Chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser John Bolton will represent the administration at McCain's funeral.

File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

McCain's farewell statement in full as read by Davis:

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for 60 years, and especially my fellow Arizonians, 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've tried to serve our country honorably. I've made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them. I've 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've loved my life, all of it.

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I've had experiences, adventures, 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 anybody else's. I owe the satisfaction to the love of my family. One man has never 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 with America's causes, liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people brings happiness more sublime that life's fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but are 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 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 progress. We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with 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 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates.

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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'll 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 heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still. Do not despair of our present difficulties, we 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.

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