United States Capitol Rotunda
11:09 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Leader Schumer, Leader Pelosi, distinguished members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, members of our armed forces and honored guests, and most of all, to the McCain family — to Cindy, his children, and Mrs. Roberta McCain: It is deeply humbling to stand before you today at the United States Capitol to commemorate the life and service of an American patriot, Senator John McCain.
The President asked me to be here, on behalf of a grateful nation, to pay a debt of honor and respect, to a man who served our country throughout his life in uniform and in public office. And it’s my great honor to be here.
In the long history of our nation, only 30 Americans have lain in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda. Today, as a reflection of the esteem in which his colleagues and our country hold him, Senator John McCain joins those ranks.
The son and the grandson of four-star admirals, John came from a family that prized military service. He entered the United States Naval Academy when he was just 17 years old. His service as a naval aviator took him around the world and eventually to the war in Vietnam.
It was there, on his 23rd bombing run, that John was shot down and captured. Refusing early release for the sake of his comrades, he endured five and a half years of confinement and torture. Then, as now, Americans marveled at the iron will of John McCain.
But captivity did not diminish John’s sense of calling or his commitment to mission. As he would later say, “I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s.”
And after he made it home, John traded service in the uniform of the United States for service in Congress, exchanging the rank of captain for congressman, and later, senator. For 35 years, John served in these very halls, under this very dome, and he fought for what he believed in.
In my years in Congress, and as Vice President, we didn’t always agree either, and he almost always noticed. But his support for limited government, for tax reform, and support for our armed forces surely left our nation more prosperous and more secure, and he will be missed. As President Trump said yesterday, we “respect his service to the country.”
Like many of you gathered here, I also had the privilege of traveling with Senator McCain to visit our troops overseas. Earlier this week, I told Cindy of a time on a trip through Iraq, after another 18-hour day, when I was literally falling asleep in the middle of a dinner with Iraqi officials.
After the dinner, John who was more than 20 years older than me, walked up, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Mike, we’ve got a few more meetings tonight” — (laughter) — “but why don’t you turn in. You look like you could use some rest.” (Laughter.) Thanks, John.
Honestly, seeing him downrange, I never traveled with a colleague who was better to our enlisted, or harder on our generals. John McCain loved the men and women who serve in the uniform of the United States, and he was a champion of our armed forces throughout his career.
In every generation, there are those who put country first, who prize service ahead of self, who summon idealism from a cynical age. John McCain was such a man.
Today, he lies in the place where he served to the last, the Congress of the United States. Soon, he will go to rest on the grounds where he served first, the United States Naval Academy.
The eyes of the American people will be upon him as he goes, and so too will their prayers for him, and especially for his beloved family gathered here today. And we will pray that those who mourn shall be comforted.
So we mourn with those who mourn, and grieve with those who grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope. Because John McCain, like millions of Americans, held firm to that hope from an old hymn that became the title of a book he wrote some 20 years ago, “Faith of our Fathers.”
The full stanza of that hymn reads:
“Faith of our Fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy,
Whene’er we hear that, glorious word.”
John McCain held firm to that faith, the faith of his fathers, through dungeons, fire, and sword. And he held fast to his faith in America through six decades of service.
We gather here today to honor an American patriot who served a cause greater than himself. And we gather here remembering a man who knew how he wanted to be remembered.
And so let me say to all those gathered, and his beloved family, on behalf of a grateful nation, we will ever remember that John McCain served his country. And John McCain served his country honorably.
May God bless the memory of John McCain. May God comfort his family and friends. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
11:17 A.M. EDT