ALEXANDRIA, VA — This morning Sen. John McCain visited Episcopal High School here, his alma mater, as part of his biographical “Service to America” tour highlighting important locations in his life.
It was at the school, McCain said, that a kid who had grown up traveling from one place to another due to his father’s naval career got to settle down in one place. He played football, tennis, and wrestled.
Much of his speech, as well as an introductory video, revolved around William B. Ravenal, an English teacher and football coach who was an inspirational figure in his life, and tought him about honor and the importance of service and sacrifice.
He used this as a jumping off point to not only relate some of his life experiences, but to emphasize his values and views on education. He especially focused on the honor code, which read, “I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal.”
That was too much to handle for some in the audience, specifically, leftist blogger Jane Hamsher, who wrote, “He’s being introduced with a lot of elitist, ‘upholding a code of honor’ boarding school crap. Makes me want to go light up in the can.”
I never knew honesty could be so offensive.
McCain took some questions, most of which were softballs from students, who asked in various ways how his experiences at Episcopal shaped his life.
The event highlighted for me another way in which it might make it difficult for the Democrats to tie McCain to Bush. The narrative on Bush to those who dislike him is that he is a spoiled rich kid who was a failure at everything in life, dodged the draft, and got by because of his last name.
McCain, on the other hand, comes from a long line of Americans who have served this country bravely, and he spent some of the best years in his life suffering during his own service.
Jim Geraghty was also there.
I thought this passage may be of interest to some of McCain’s conservative detractors who have been turned off by his temper:
I arrived here a pretty rambunctious boy, with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I was always the new kid, and was accustomed to proving myself quickly at each new school as someone not to be challenged lightly. As a young man, I would respond aggressively and sometimes irresponsibly to anyone whom I perceived to have questioned my sense of honor and self-respect. Those responses often got me in a fair amount of trouble earlier in life. In all candor, as an adult I’ve been known to forget occasionally the discretion expected of a person of my years and station when I believe I’ve been accorded a lack of respect I did not deserve. Self-improvement should be a work in progress all our lives, and I confess to needing it as much as anyone. But I believe if my detractors had known me at Episcopal they might marvel at the self-restraint and mellowness I developed as an adult. Or perhaps they wouldn’t quite see it that way.