Former U.S. president Barack Obama honoured John McCain at his funeral Saturday, denouncing “mean and petty” public discourse.
“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, tracking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama said in his 20-minute speech. “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”
Obama defeated the Arizona six-term senator in the 2008 presidential race. Although once his rival and the two contrasted on many views, Obama praised McCain’s ability to bridge differences and focus on the common good.
“I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race, religion or gender,” Obama said. “While John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one indispensable nation.
WATCH: John McCain funeral: Barack Obama recalls senator’s ‘mischievous streak’ in tribute
Obama referred to one incident during the 2008 campaign when a woman said she didn’t trust him because he was “an Arab,” at which point McCain interjected and said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man.”
McCain had served in the Vietnam War as a pilot and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, where he was tortured and gave up an offer to be released, because another prisoner had been there longer.
“He had been to hell and back, yet somehow never lost his energy or optimism or his zest for life,” Obama said.