McCain Institute upholding late Sen. John McCain’s legacy

Sen. John McCain went from a prisoner of war to a global ambassador for democracy and human rights.
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 4:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Five years ago on Friday, Arizona and the world lost a great statesman. Sen. John McCain went from a prisoner of war to a global ambassador for democracy and human rights. For more than a decade, the McCain Institute has pushed to further the life work and now legacy of John McCain.

“The world knows where Arizona is because of Sen. McCain,” said McCain Institute executive director Evelyn Farkas. We caught up with her to talk about the theme of this year’s mission, which is defending democracy. “I think today there’s a crying need for character-driven leaders, globally, not just in the U.S.,” Farkas said. The Institute’s Global Leaders Program brings together human and civil rights advocates with elected officials from all over the world to retrace the late senator’s pivotal steps to expand democracy. From D.C. to Taiwan, ending in Vietnam where he was detained for five years as a P.O.W. and returned decades later to facilitate reconciliation. “The work they do is a reminder to everyone that you can be a values-driven leader, that you can put your values first and still look out for your interests, that America must be engaged in the world,” Farkas said.

Many of the regions McCain fought for are still volatile and vulnerable today. He took a stand for freedom in Ukraine long before the Russian invasion. “Every other frontline democracy is watching for the outcome in Ukraine,” Farkas said. Even McCain’s widow, Ambassador Cindy McCain, is impacted by grain restrictions in the region. She’s now running the World Food Program. “The work to fight against these autocrats to fight against (Russia President) Vladimir Putin continues for her today,” Farkas said.

And she’s mindful of the current fight for democracy here in America. “Cindy McCain was actually introduced by Sen. (Joe) Biden to Sen. McCain. Which obviously means something to her, but I think she feels strongly in defending democracy, the integrity of the vote, the right of every American to have their vote accurately counted and represented,” Farkas said. And as a lifelong Republican, Cindy McCain’s vote, for the first time ever, went to a Democrat in 2020.

Farkas says now’s a good time for everyone pause and take in all John McCain stood for. “It’s really an opportunity to look at what made him such a values-driven leader, what made him make decisions and put his values and again, human rights at the core of everything he did,” Farkas said.

The McCain Institute paired with Arizona State University is hosting a human rights symposium in his honor in our nation’s capital next year focusing on service over self to show just how much leadership and character really matter.

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