Ending a week of elaborate events honoring the late Sen. John McCain –- a spectacle akin to funeral processions held for presidents -– is a memorial at Washington’s National Cathedral Saturday with eulogies from former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the very rivals that thwarted the Vietnam veteran’s own presidential hopes.
Participating in the memorial service is also a troop of pallbearers that includes a breadth of notable figures, from prominent politicians to Hollywood royalty to business leaders to dear friends of the McCain family.
“We have always had so much more in common with each other than disagreement,” McCain wrote in a posthumous letter delivered earlier this week by one of the pallbearers, former McCain presidential campaign manager Richard Davis.
In the spirit of those final words, the selected pallbearers embody the range of McCain’s friendships that defied ideological differences, political rivalries and time:
— former Vice President Joe Biden;
— actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg;
— former Defense Sec. William Cohen; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island;
— former Sens. Gary Hart of Colorado, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Phil Gramm of Texas;
— former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge;
— Davis, his former campaign manager;
— McCain’s former chief of staff Mark Salter;
— longtime fundraiser Carla Eudy;
— businessman Stephen Dart;
— FedEx chairman and president Fred Smith;
— and Russian politician Vladimir Kara-Murza.
In an emotional eulogy for the Arizona Senator Thursday, Biden honored McCain, calling him his “brother,” and celebrated his legacy as a patriot.
“John believed so deeply and so passionately in the soul of America,” Biden said. “His faith in the core values of this nation made them somehow feel it more genuinely themselves.”
Bloomberg wrote a tribute revering the giant of the Senate, saluting McCain’s conviction —- even when his own party’s rancor stood in direct contrast to his integrity.
“As the values that John always stood for were attacked and undermined by leading figures in his own party, he spoke out in ways that reminded us once again of the integrity of his character: ‘I was raised in the concept and belief that ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ is the lodestar for behavior that we have to exhibit every single day,'” Bloomberg wrote. “He always strove to live up to that ideal, and when he failed — as we all do from time to time — he had the courage to own up to it.”
Beatty, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker and liberal Democrat, said of his close and longstanding friendship with the two-time Republican presidential contender during an interview with The Atlantic in 2008, “I consider my friendships to be friendships.”
“Let me say this a better way,” he continued. “I don’t think that political ideology is necessarily germane to friendships.”
The 15 pallbearers — whose descriptions all begin with “friend” in the ceremony details — span a lifetime of unlikely bonds during McCain’s decades in public service.