Hamer: Sen. John McCain’s love and purpose

From consciousness I’ve always loved this country and what she stands for. America, as President Ronald Reagan called her, is the “shining city on a hill.”

Glenn Hamer

We are a good people. One that respects all others and strives always to do right. A nation dedicated to freedom, rule of law, respect of others, and the pursuit of happiness. A country driven by something bigger than ourselves.

The response to the passing of Sen. John McCain reminds all of us that we are a good people. The outpouring for him has been beautiful, big,and it has brought us all together as Americans. It’s a moment of national reflection.

His farewell statement is a modern-day Gettysburg Address. It will inspire and help guide us moving forward in his absence: “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.”

Freedom fighter

America’s greatest fighter for all freedom-loving people on Earth has been Sen. John McCain.

Sen. McCain dedicated much of his career to building out a strong defense to keep our country safe. If he could not serve as president, the next most important and natural role for him was to lead the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In this role he would help modernize our military and use his influence to reform our veterans health care. Both efforts required bipartisan support and culminated in recent years with landmark legislation. The most recent defense authorization bill was named in his honor and its reforms will be a permanent part of our defense strategy moving forward.

He also served as our very best ambassador.

Early in my tenure at the Arizona Chamber I met with a group of mid-level government officials from one of the former Soviet Republics who were on a visit to the U.S. that took them through Arizona.

They asked me what a typical day and work week was like. I told them of my usual meetings and that this particular week was special because I would be part of a meeting with Sen. McCain.

Once I mentioned the senator, our visitors couldn’t have cared less about what else I had to say.

Sen. McCain was an inspiration to them. They asked if they could meet him personally in the few hours they had left in the state. I told them I couldn’t promise anything, but that I would make a call to the senator’s Phoenix office. I wasn’t expecting much. This was a last-second request, after all.

But within a few hours Sen. McCain was at our office building meeting with our international friends. The meeting culminated with me juggling their smartphones to snap a photo for each of them with their hero.

He was fully committed to diplomacy, and he understood the importance of trade to keep the world productively connected and as an opportunity to export not only goods and services, but American values.

Expanding and modernizing our trading system was a priority for Sen. McCain. It was a great privilege to work with the senator on advancing the cause, specifically the North American Free Trade Agreement. Expanding the economic power of the world’s most important democratic trading bloc was important. He recognized the obvious: Mexico and Canada are our friends and allies; we should treat them as such.

Service to Arizona

Closer to home, he always did his job. Where there was work to be done, he was ready to do it.

The most consequential and recognized legislator on the planet, Sen. McCain was always driven by his service to Arizona.

The senator spent countless efforts on water stewardship, wildfire management and forest health. He devoted many hours to the restoration of a fish hatchery in Mohave County.

He protected the A-10 aircraft at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, advocated for the major F-35 presence at Luke AFB in the West Valley, the Yuma Proving Grounds and more.

Love and purpose

The two characteristics that drive the best among us are love and purpose. Sen. McCain had a love of this country that was palpable.

Every day he would work hard with the purpose of protecting America and increasing her success.

This purpose drove him to work harder than any person I know. During his final Senate campaign in 2016 it was not uncommon to hear 20-something staffers confess to being exhausted by the calendar of a nearly 80-year-old man. He moved through that campaign with a frenetic energy, just like he moved through every other aspect of his life.

Sen. McCain was a team player. When I served as executive director of the state Republican Party during the 2006 election cycle, he would gladly help candidates at all levels seeking office. While the senator’s top priority that year was ensuring the reelection of his friend and colleague, Sen. Jon Kyl, he always made time for our worthy candidates in need of help. I was always grateful.

It was a privilege to have the chance to return the favor during his final campaign in 2016. The senator and his team were incredibly kind to make me a sort of ex-officio part of the effort.

For many events I served as a warm-up act or moderator. Sen. McCain would almost always tell the audience that I was one of his former employees who, just like the Hotel California, could “check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

He would also playfully (I think, anyway) say that I was his worst employee, but that my work release from prison was going well. For the record, I never actually drew a paycheck from the senator, but he always liked to say that I did, and I liked hearing it.

A legacy to honor

The senator is gone. It will be up to each of us to carry on a part of his legacy. I will do my best on issues like trade and immigration, while others will take on other challenges facing our state, country and the globe.

Together we’ll continue his legacy with love and purpose.

Glenn Hamer
President and CEO
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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