Notable & quotable

Staff Writer

‘The Most Wonderous Land’ From Sen. John McCain’s remarks at the 2017 Liberty Medal ceremony, October 16: As printed in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,  Wednesday, October 18, 2017

“Some years ago, I was present at an event where an earlier Liberty Medal recipient spoke about America’s values and the sacrifices made for them.  It was 1991, and I was attending the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The World War II veteran, estimable patriot and good man, President George H.W. Bush, gave a moving speech at the USS Arizona memorial.  I remember it very well.  His voice was thick with emotion as he neared the end of his address.  I imagine he was thinking not only of the brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, but of the friends he had served with and lost in the Pacific where he had been the Navy’s youngest aviator.

‘Look at the water here, clear and quiet…’ he directed, ‘One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.’

He could barely get out the last line, ‘May God bless them, and may God bless America, the most wonderous land on earth.’

The most wonderous land on earth, indeed.  I’ve had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wonderous land….I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America.  And I am so very grateful.

What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave magnificent country.  With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed….

We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn.  The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history.  This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to  war on December 7, 1941.

  To fear the world we have organized and led for over three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse  the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the ‘last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made ideals, not blood and soil.  We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad.  We have done great good in the world.  That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did.  We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t.  We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent.

We wouldn’t deserve to.   

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