John McCain

What They Said: Joe Biden, Larry Fitzgerald, Others Honor John McCain in Phoenix

Former Vice President Joe Biden wipes away a tear as he eulogizes his friend John McCain in Phoenix.
Former Vice President Joe Biden wipes away a tear as he eulogizes his friend John McCain in Phoenix. Associate Press Pool Photo

Speakers eulogized the late Senator John McCain at North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday, remarking on McCain's character, strength, and commitment to public service.

They shared poignant and occasionally funny stories about McCain's life and the moments that made McCain special to them.

Wednesday, as many as 15,000 people lined up to witness McCain lying in state at the Arizona Capitol. A motorcade carried the late senator from the Capitol to the church this morning.

Speakers at the Thursday service included former Vice President Joe Biden, former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, Arizona Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and President of the Raza Development Fund Tommy Espinoza.

Also expected to attend were two dozen sitting U.S. senators, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and his wife, Angela; former Vice President Dan Quayle; and several former senators.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, McCain is scheduled to leave Arizona for the last time at 12:35 p.m., bound for Joint Base Andrews on a C-32 military plane. He will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Maryland on Sunday after a ceremony on Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Below are excerpts from their remarks.

click to enlarge Joe Biden: "John's story is an American story." - ASSOCIATED PRESS POOL PHOTO
Joe Biden: "John's story is an American story."
Associated Press Pool Photo
Joe Biden:

"I always thought of John as a brother — had a hell of a lot of family fights. We go back a long way."

“Out of this grew a great friendship that transcended whatever political differences we had, or later developed, because above all, we understood the same thing: All politics is personal. It’s all about trust."

"I trusted John with my life, and I would. And I think he would trust me with his. We both knew then from our different experiences — and as our life progressed, we learned even more — that there are times when life can be so cruel, pain so blinding, it’s hard to see anything else. The disease that took John’s life took our mutual friend Teddy’s life; the exact same disease, nine years ago a couple days ago. And three years ago, it took my beautiful son Beau's life. It’s brutal. It’s relentless. It’s unforgiving. And it takes so much from those we love and the families that love them, that in order to survive we have to remember how they lived, not how they died.”

“There’s nothing anyone can say or do to ease the pain right now. But I pray you take some comfort knowing that because you shared John with all of us, your whole life, the world, now shares with you the ache of John’s death. Look around this magnificent church."

“John’s story is the American story. That’s not hyperbole. It sounds like it’s the American story. Grounded in respect and decency, basic fairness, the intolerance for the abuse of power ... And he could not stand the abuse of power, wherever he saw it."

click to enlarge Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald called McCain "a fighter." - ASSOCIATED PRESS POOL PHOTO
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald called McCain "a fighter."
Associated Press Pool Photo
Larry Fitzgerald:

"While from very different worlds, we developed a meaningful friendship. And this highlights the very rare and very meaningful qualities of Senator McCain that I came to admire … He judged them on the work they put in and the principles they lived by. It was this approach to humanity that made Senator McCain so respected to countless people around the world, including me."

"His work ethic: tireless. His fight: legendary. But what made Senator McCain so special was he cared about the substance of my heart rather than where I came from."

"Yes, ours was an unlikely friendship. But it’s one that I will always cherish."

Tommy Espinoza:

“To me, John really did reflect our country in its true form. My father is a Marine — passed away in February. Once a Marine, always a Marine, he’d say; got wounded in Guam, purple heart."

"When he talked about John McCain, he said, ‘He understands us. He understands us.’ And I must confess, he did understand us. He understood all of us, whether it was white, black, brown, Asian. To him, it didn’t make any difference. To him, he knew we all make America great.”
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty