This year’s Republican convention reminded me why I’ve always liked Senator John McCain even when I disagree with him.
Hurricane Gustav’s arrival along the Gulf Coast seemed to be part of the plan. The convention opened Monday with the theme of serving a cause greater than self. First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain welcomed the delegates and asked for volunteers to stuff aid packages or make phone calls asking for donations.
Senator Joe Lieberman took the stage to talk about service and his BFF:
“I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party. I’m here tonight because John McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead our country forward. I’m here because John McCain’s whole life testifies to a great truth: being a Democrat or a Republican is important. But it is not more important than being an American.”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee continued the theme Wednesday with this unforgettable story :
“On the first day of school in 2005, Martha Cothren, a teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was determined that her students would not take their education or their privilege as Americans for granted. With the principal’s permission, she removed all the desks from her classroom. The students entered the empty room and asked, “Mrs. Cothren, where are our desks?”
“You get a desk when you tell me how you earn it,” she replied.
“Making good grades?” asked one student.
“You ought to make good grades, but that won’t get you a desk,” Martha responded.
“I guess we have to behave,” offered another.
“You will behave in my class,” Mrs. Cothren retorted, “but that won’t get you a desk, either.”
No one in first period guessed right. Same for second period.
By lunch, the buzz was all over campus. Mrs. Cothren had flipped out, wouldn’t let her students have a desk. Kids had used their cell phones and called their parents.
By early afternoon, all four of the local network TV affiliates had camera crews at the school to report on the teacher who wouldn’t let her students have a desk unless they could tell her how they earned it. By the final period, no one had guessed correctly.
As the students filed in, Martha Cothren said, “Well, I didn’t think you would figure it out, so I’ll have to tell you.”
Martha opened the door of her classroom. In walked 27 veterans, some wearing uniforms from years gone by, but each one carrying a school desk.
As they carefully and quietly arranged the desks in neat rows, Martha said, “You don’t have to earn your desks. These guys already did. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. No one charged you for your desk. But it wasn’t really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never forget it.”
VP nominee Governor Sarah Palin argued that sacrifice and service trumps fancy speeches and a football stadium full of screaming fans:
“There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you … in places where winning means survival and defeat means death … and that man is John McCain. In our day, politicians have readily shared much lesser tales of adversity than the nightmare world in which this man, and others equally brave, served and suffered for their country. It’s a long way from the fear and pain and squalor of a six-by-four cell in Hanoi to the Oval Office. But if Senator McCain is elected president, that is the journey he will have made.”
On Thursday, Senator McCain talked about what changed him from a selfish, cocky pilot to the man he is today:
“A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I’d been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.”
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s.”
Sacrifice, service & putting your country first; I can ignore all the ground noise and static if these are the values guiding a McCain/Palin administration.