This past Saturday saw the funeral of Senator John McCain, at which former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama delivered eulogies. Referencing the late senator’s sense of humor, Obama, who ran against McCain in the 2008 presidential race, said “What other way to get a laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience?”
However, during his eulogy, Obama went on to reference one of McCain’s heroes, the author Ernest Hemingway. Using a quote from For Whom the Bell Tolls, McCain’s favorite of Hemingway’s novels, Obama said:
‘Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.’ What other way to honor John McCain’s life of service, than to, as best we can, follow his example?
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McCain had always held the protagonist of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, as a personal hero, recognizing in him the traits he valued in himself and others. Both Jordan and McCain were war heroes who fought for what they believed in, and for what they felt to be the good of their people.
Of Hemingway’s impact on him, McCain once wrote:
For a long time, Robert Jordan was the man I admired above almost all others in life and fiction. He was brave, dedicated, capable, selfless, possessed in abundance that essence of courage that Hemingway described as grace under pressure, a man who would risk his life but never his honor… He was and remains to my mind a hero for the twentieth century, my century, the century when McCains went to war on ships and claimed our place in the great clashes among rival ideologies, fascism, communism, and self-determination, that made the age as memorable for its violence as for its progress.
HBO recently released documentary on McCain, also called For Whom the Bell Tolls.
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