McCain the reluctant hero inspires young
NEW YORK – Republican John McCain, who spent several years in a prison camp in Vietnam and declined offers to be released before his comrades, said on Thursday he did not consider himself a hero.
Modesty? Say what you will about the Arizona senator, but he appears to sincerely feel that way.
Which is why the question continues to come up. At fundraisers and town hall meetings, supporters — especially younger people — ask the 71-year-old why he doesn’t spend more time talking about his own personal story.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” McCain said at a televised campaign event on Thursday night, when told by one audience member that many young people were unaware of the senator’s military history.
“The great honor of my life years ago was in a North Vietnamese prison camp to serve in the company of heroes. I observed a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love,” McCain said.
Supporters would like to hear more about that. But the candidate is reluctant.
“I’ve been an imperfect servant of this country,” he said, saying he did not put himself in the same category as those who served with him in the war.
Many beg to differ. Even Barack Obama, the Democratic White House candidate, regularly refers to McCain as an American hero — before ripping into his policy proposals and tying him to unpopular Republican President George W. Bush.
McCain acknowledged that his story inspires, and promised to tell it to younger voters, whose support he is competing for.
“It took me a long time til I was in a prison camp in North Vietnam, and I figured out that there’s nothing nobler than to serve a cause greater than your self-interest, and sometimes when I talk to young people they say those stories inspire them,” he said.
– Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (McCain puts his hand to his head as he speaks to the National Federation of Independent Business).