Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday posted a heartfelt tribute to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his 2008 presidential opponent, following McCain’s announcement that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
“John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known,” Obama wrote on Twitter. “Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”
Obama defeated McCain in 2008, but the two men, who served together in the Senate, shared a cordial relationship.
In a now-famous incident at a town hall a few weeks before the 2008 election, McCain corrected an attendee who claimed Obama was “an Arab,” during a period when some McCain supporters shouted personal and sometimes racist insults about Obama.
“I don’t trust Obama,” the woman told McCain. “He’s an Arab.”
McCain stopped her.
“No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”
Following his defeat in the presidential election, McCain praised Obama’s historic victory as the first black president, in a classy concession speech.
“This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” McCain began.
I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.
Later, McCain urged his voters to support Obama’s leadership.
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited,” he said.