With the passing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), presidential nominee and war hero, the United States has lost a beacon of hope and civility in politics. Now, as our nation mourns his loss, we must find the right way to commemorate his legacy.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with McCain’s former colleagues from across party lines, have proposed renaming the Russell Senate Office Building in McCain’s honor. I cannot imagine a more well-suited tribute to the maverick. The Senate should approve the John S. McCain Senate Office Building without delay.

There’s a reason so many buildings in downtown Washington, D.C., bear the names of great statesmen — like the Ronald Reagan Building and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, to name just a couple. The names of buildings commemorate leaders who gave their lives serving the institutions housed within. A building can symbolize the lasting legacy of the person whose name it bears — a reminder to the people who work inside about the values and ideals they should seek to embody. McCain epitomized the qualities that senators and their staff should aspire to uphold.

The name of the Russell Building should symbolize the important role the Senate holds in our nation’s capital. The Senate, at its best, is the chamber of civil discourse, principled bipartisan compromise and deliberate action. Russell’s proximity to the heart of our country’s governance — it is the nearest Senate office building to the Capitol — makes it all the more worthwhile to name it after a leader who represented the core principles and promises not only of the Senate, but also of our republic.

The bells have tolled for McCain, and our nation mourns his loss. But his memory should live on in the values, ideals and country that he believed in.

McCain exemplified what is most exceptional about the United States. He stood for the values and principles that make and have always made this country great: that we are not bound together because of our race, creed, sexuality, gender, wealth, social status or birthplace. We are bound not by our identity, but by our values.

“We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic,” McCain wrote in his final letter to the American public. “A nation of ideals, not blood and soil.”

McCain stood for reasoned deliberation and principled compromise, practices now sadly falling out of vogue in the Senate. He worked with former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s to normalize relations with Vietnam; he also fought alongside Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in 2002 to pass bipartisan campaign finance reform. He routinely reached across the aisle to build relationships with Senate colleagues; no friendship was more telling of his character than his legendary partnership with the “Lion of the Senate,” Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

McCain often stood against the tide of popular opinion, even in his own party. He championed the Detainee Treatment Act and voiced opposition to the administration of former President George W. Bush, as well as to U.S. policy on “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects.

More recently, McCain defied his party to block a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, rather than leave Americans without a substantive replacement. He was a maverick, not for the sake of being countercultural, only when he believed it was in the best interest of the American people.

Some of McCain’s Senate colleagues have said that removing the building’s current namesake, Sen. Richard Russell (D-Ga.), would diminish Russell’s legacy and establish a precedent for later generations to do the same with McCain’s.

Yet there are fundamental differences between their legacies. Russell was a segregationist: He used his mastery of Senate procedure and rhetorical eloquence to filibuster bills on civil rights, block laws that would have outlawed lynching and co-author the Southern Manifesto, a document written by some in Congress in opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. His values are not American values.

Though McCain would be the first to admit he was far from perfect, he always tried to correct his mistakes and kept fighting to make this country a better and freer land. He was an imperfect servant striving to improve an imperfect union. The same, ultimately, cannot be said of Russell.

Many Georgetown University interns work in or near the Senate office building nearest to the Capitol. The name on the side of that building should belong to a senator they can aspire to be more like. McCain embodied our nation’s founding principles, and his life encapsulates the ideals by which we pursue a freer and more prosperous union for all people. He was a bleeding-heart American who sought to serve his country — and succeeded.

The Senate should rename the Russell Senate Office building for McCain but, more than that, should also uphold his standards of public service. This country needs people for others, and we will prosper because of those who do live up to those ideals.

Jake Nave Lyons is a junior in the College. He is currently the president of Georgetown University College Republicans.

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One Comment

  1. Hector Sector says:

    Learn your history, Obsequious Hack Boy.

    After finishing near the bottom of his USNA class, McCain crashed two planes before he was promptly shot down. Typically, heroes accomplish more than that. Returning from captivity (during which time he was said by fellow veterans to have used his status as an admiral’s son to great advantage), McCain promptly started cheating on his faithful wife, then dumped her for a millionaire’s daughter so he could run for Congress.

    Once he escaped the Keating Five scandal, McCain became known for his disjointed speeches and strange outbursts (“I hate the Gooks”). But this Useful Idiot was protected by the leftwing establishment he reliably served by “reaching across the aisle” to scuttle any significant conservative efforts.

    Famously self-centered, McCain randomly resisted newly inaugurated President George W. Bush’s most basic initiatives after Bush had bested him in the Republican primaries. Like a 17-year locust, the Senator from the New York Times repeated his tantrum act against another new Republican president who had bested him in 2017-2018, flip-flopping to rescue the very Obamacare he had previously railed against. So unpredictable and out of touch was this rent-a-maverick, that a credible campaign to recall him was underway in Arizona when the senator was rescued by the 9-11 attacks.

    Note that McCain was somehow never a “Maverick” when it came to unethical and continuous warfare. Senator Strangelove will face the Lord with blood on his hands for his bizarre cheerleading of any and all bombing attacks and assassinations, from Serbia to Iraq, Libya and Syria, and including his attempts to pick a war with nuclear Russia over Georgia, the Crimea and Syria. And “Ba-ba-ba-ba-Bomb Iran!” A real class act.

    To my knowledge, Senator Straight Talk did not abandon a woman to suffocate in the sea, so in that sense he had a slim edge over Ted Kennedy. But based on his poor character, I’m sure he would have, had the opportunity presented itself.

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