Originally posted on Cape Cod Times by Steve Barney.
One year ago, our nation lost a great patriot and public servant. Senator John McCain dedicated his life to serving his country. As a Navy pilot, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as Congressman, and U.S. Senator, this extraordinary American who ran for President two times never stopped loving – and serving – his country.
John McCain often said there was no higher pursuit than to serve a cause greater than oneself. He believed service was a responsibility of citizenship and could take many forms, from defending our freedom abroad to finding solutions to problems here at home.
I had the honor to work for Senator McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I saw first-hand how he treated colleagues with respect, looked for areas of common ground, and always put our country first. He understood service was essential for our nation’s well-being, and he worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for Americans to serve – whether in our nation’s uniformed services, teaching a child to read, or protecting our public lands.
Knowing his character and passion for giving back, it was no surprise that in 2016, he spearheaded the creation of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a bipartisan Commission working to increase participation in service. I am grateful for his decision to appoint me to serve on this Commission, which is continuing his legacy by exploring new ways to engage more Americans in service to meet our challenges at home and abroad.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of his passing, his wife, Cindy McCain asked that we find common ground with our fellow Americans by engaging in acts of civility, including service to others. Our Commission joins in this challenge from the McCain family to Americans from all walks of life to step forward in service to strengthen our communities, whether volunteering in your local soup kitchen, starting a career in the military or the government, or joining AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps.
The spirit of service is in America’s DNA, and great service is happening right here on Cape Cod. Recently, I had the privilege to speak at the graduation ceremony of Cape Cod AmeriCorps. These dedicated AmeriCorps members spent the last year serving on a range of environmental projects and played a key role in Cape Cod’s disaster preparedness and response efforts. They were on the ground when tornados hit our communities, and helped create the first accessible conservation trail, with hundreds of plant species. Acts of civility and service like these help keep our community united and strong.
As a Commissioner, I have met with and have been inspired by many people who work to make their local communities a better place, including my fellow Cape Cod residents. Let’s make that movement national. Let’s cultivate the passion Americans have for service and country, that it may flourish and grow. Let’s work together to create a culture of service, where Americans not only aspire to serve, but have opportunities to answer the call and strengthen our great nation.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, John McCain simply said, “He served his country.” Let us honor him though our own acts of civility and service, and by building a movement that will lead, ultimately, to every American inspired and eager to serve.
Steven Barney of Sandwich serves on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and previously served as General Counsel to the Committee on Armed Services in the U.S. Senate, and in the United States Navy.