…a beautiful prose poem to America, national service, and civil debate (congrats Mark Salter, as ever), and gets derided for it, of course.
“I supported the war in Iraq.” Boos. Explains the war was not for cheap oil. A little heckling: “You’re full of it!” Says he thought the “country’s interest and values demanded” the war. Someone shouts: “Wrongly!” Someone else: “More poetry!” (A reference to lines from Yeats McCain had quoted earlier.)
He says “whether [the war] was necessary or not…we all should shed a tear” for those who have sacrificed in it. Some hissing.
He eventually enters into a Bushian rift: “All people share the desire to be free”; “human rights are above the state and beyond history”; we are “insisting that all people have the right to be free.” Someone shouts: “We’re graduating, not voting!” Lots of derisive shouts and laughter and applause.
As McCain continues with a personal story, a student shouts: “It’s about my life, not yours.” McCain:
“When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest value…” Groans from the students. “It’s not about you!” “Sit down!”
McCain circles back around to the theme of civility: “We are not enemies, we are compatriots…” Boos, shouts. McCain: It “should remain an argument among friends”; we should be “respectful of the goodness in each other.” Literally one person applauds.
McCain goes on to tell his story about his reconciliation with an opponent of the Vietnam War: “I had a friend once…” Groans, boos.
He talks about forgiving his friend who dissented from the war. Hostile rumblings from the students.
He says after the reconciliation, he and his friend “worked together for shared ideals.” A shout: “We don’t share your ideals!” As McCain closes there is a mix of boos and applause, and a few people even stand to clap.