Former President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy Saturday morning honoring the life of John McCain, who died last week after a decades-long career in the Senate. In a pair of surprise requests last spring, the Arizona lawmaker asked Obama and former President George W. Bush, both of whom had defeated him in national campaigns, to give the eulogies at his memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.
Below, the full text of Obama’s remarks as delivered.
To John’s beloved family, Mrs. McCain, to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Biden, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore, and, as John would say, my friends: We come to celebrate an extraordinary man, a warrior, a statesman, a patriot, who embodied so much that is best in America. President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents, just as he made the Senate better, just as he made this country better. So for someone like John to ask you while he is still alive to stand and speak of him when he is gone is a precious and singular honor.
Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I’ll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. But after our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John’s essential qualities. To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be, and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John’s disdain for self-pity. He had been to hell and back and yet somehow never lost his energy or his optimism or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him. And he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end, too stubborn to sit still, opinionated as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and, most of all, to his family. It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor, a little bit of a mischievous streak. After all, what better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience. And most of all, it showed a largeness of spirit, an ability to see past differences in search of common ground.