John McCain’s gift to his daughter was a lesson in resilience

Moving forward.
Moving forward.
Image: Reuters/Chris Wattie
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Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father, US senator John McCain, on Saturday (Sept. 1) has been described as a “swipe” at US president Donald Trump, and a “fiery” rebuke of his political approach. But beyond the politics, McCain’s speech was also a heartfelt commemoration of her relationship with her father, and of the important lessons he imparted to her.

Perhaps one of the most moving anecdotes from her speech related to a moment when her father taught her the importance of moving forward with dignity after experiencing failure or pain.

“I was a small girl, thrown from a horse and crying from a busted collarbone. My dad picked me up. He took me to the doctor, he got me all fixed up. Then he immediately took me back home and made me get back on the same horse. I was furious at him as a child, but how I love him for it now.”

Looking back, McCain says she couldn’t have comprehended how much her pain paled in comparison to what her father experienced as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“He could have sat me down and told me that and made me feel small because my complaint and fear was nothing next to his pain and memory. Instead, he made me feel loved. ‘Meghan,’ he said in his quiet voice that spoke with authority and meant you had best obey. ‘Get back on the horse.’ I did. And because I was a little girl, I resented it. Now that I am a woman, I look back across that time and see the expression on his face when I climbed back up and rode again, and see the pride and love in his eyes as he said ‘Nothing is going to break you.'”

McCain says this lesson in resilience has remained with her for life.

As gender equality takes root in countries across the world, fathers are becoming increasingly involved in their children’s upbringing. This provides a unique opportunity for men to positively impact the lives of their daughters by actively preparing them for the obstacles they may face in the future, particularly gendered ones such as bullying and workplace harassment.

Resilience, self-confidence, and leadership are lessons that children can learn from both their parents. But as long as sexism exists, having a beloved male figure remind you of your value from a young age can prove invaluable for little girls later on. It certainly did for Meghan McCain.