John McCain's close friend Rick Davis read John McCain's last letter to a crowd in Arizona

By Maura Hohman
August 27, 2018 03:05 PM
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Late Sen. John McCain’s close friend Rick Davis, a Republican political consultant, read an emotional letter written by the Arizona Republican, who died of stage-four brain cancer Saturday night at age 81, for a crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, on Monday afternoon.

The letter, read aloud by Davis at McCain’s request, addressed his gratitude for his accomplished life and the importance of sticking to American ideals despite “present difficulties.” According to some observers, it also took subtle shots at President Donald Trump through mentions of “tribal rivalries” and “[hiding] behind walls rather than [tearing] them down.”

McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain also tweeted the letter.

Credit: Matt York/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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At the start of his posthumous note, McCain thanked Americans and Arizonans for allowing him to serve them for more than 60 years. “I’ve tried to serve our country honorably,” the late six-term senator wrote. “I’ve made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.”

The Vietnam War veteran continued: “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. I’ve had experiences, adventures, enough for 10 satisfying lives. I am so thankful. Like most, people, I have regrets, but I would not trade my life, in good or bad times for anybody else’s.”

John McCain at daughter Meghan McCain’s wedding
| Credit: Sierra Blanco Photography

McCain also thanked his family — “No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine,” he wrote — and attributed his happiness to fighting for American values, including “liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people … 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.”

Next, he turned to a more challenging topic: the state of political discourse in the U.S. and, perhaps implicitly, President Trump’s effect on it. “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,” he wrote. “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.

John McCain

McCain also emphasized what unites Americans: “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.”

He then reminded the public of the last time he said a history-making good-bye — after he lost his bid for president in 2008 to Barack Obama.

“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,” he said.

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To conclude, McCain acknowledged the challenges of the world today while also instilling hope. “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.”

John McCain and Sarah Palin
| Credit: Kiichiro Sato/AP

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Trump had a famously tense relationship. In July 2015, then-candidate Trump said Sen. McCain was “not a war hero” because he likes “people that weren’t captured.”

McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years. The former Navy pilot previously told PEOPLE that he survived thanks to his “faith in God, faith in my fellow prisoners and faith in my country.”

After the 2016 election, McCain became one of the president’s most staunch critics on the right. In July, when Trump convened with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, McCain said, “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”

John McCain and Barack Obama
| Credit: Win McNamee/Getty

McCain described Trump and Putin’s press conference in Helsinki as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

On Friday, when McCain’s family announced that he would be stopping cancer treatment, Trump did not comment, and now Trump is facing criticism for not keeping White House flags at half-staff for more than a day and a half after McCain’s death.

When asked how McCain’s family was responding to Trump’s actions, Davis responded, “The entire focus of the McCain family is on John McCain.”