The death of Sen. John McCain from stage-four brain cancer at the age of 81 on Saturday has drawn tributes from across the cultural and political spectrum.
Former Vice President Joe Biden — who was the running mate of McCain’s one-time political adversary, future President Barack Obama, in the 2008 campaign — posted a lengthy statement on his Twitter account.
“John was many things — a proud graduate of the Naval Academy, a Senate colleague, a political,” he wrote in part. “But, to me, more than anything, John was a friend. America will miss John McCain. The world will miss John McCain. And I will miss him dearly.”
Obama himself also commented in a statement of his own shared to Twitter.
“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and competed at the highest level of politics,” he began. “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,” the former president continued, referencing McCain’s five years spent under brutal conditions as a prisoner of war when he was taken by the North Vietnamese after his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down in October 1967 during a bombing run over Hanoi. “But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the great good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
President Donald Trump, who had his share of political differences with the late senator, also tweeted words of condolences to the McCain family.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” he wrote. “Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who shot to international fame when McCain chose her as a running mate in the 2008 election, shared a photo of the pair speaking at a rally.
“Sen. John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs,” she wrote. “John never took the easy path in life – and through sacrifice and suffering he inspired others to serve something greater than self.”
Meghan McCain, the late Senator’s daughter, posted a moving tribute to Twitter shortly after his death was announced.
“All that I am is thanks to him,” she wrote in part. “Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations, and his love.”
Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife of 38 years, also mourned the loss on social media.
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“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,” the Clintons said. “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 mold 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.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis also released a statement to PEOPLE. “We have lost a man who steadfastly represented the best ideals of our country. As a Naval Officer and defiant prisoner of was, John McCain stood with his brothers-in-arms until they returned home together,” it reads in part. “Passionately committed to our country, Senator McCain always put service to the Nation before self. He recognized 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.”
Other tributes flooded social media from both sides of the aisle, including words from former Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Celebrities, including Jimmy Kimmel and Whoopi Goldberg, also added their voices to the outpouring of social media mourners.
In a statement released on Twitter on Friday, the McCain family explained that the politician — who was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with a median survival rate of just 15 months, in July 2017 — made the decision to stop medical treatment.
“Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: he had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious,” the statement said. “In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.”
By the next day, he had succumbed to the illness. “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018,” his family said in a statement Saturday, according to NBC News.
McCain is survived by wife Cindy, and his children: Douglas, Andrew, and Sidney (all with first wife Carol McCain) and Meghan, Jack, James, and Bridget, with Cindy.
—Reporting by SUSAN KEATING