When I was 7, my father took me to a John McCain presidential campaign rally. I don’t have any memories of this – I found out about it recently from an old home video.

The quality of the videotape has deteriorated over time (it spent 10 years in a barn, after all), but some parts of the audio are clear. McCain saying, at one point, that “there are a lot of crazy people in Maine – but they’re usually gone by Labor Day!” And you can very clearly hear 7-year-old Victoria shout: “This is boring! With a capital B!”

The camera pans down to my face. I am pouting, in a very dramatic way. (I was a dramatic kid.) And of course, I am right. What sort of crazy person brings a 7-year-old to a campaign rally being held in an airplane hangar? There weren’t even fireworks!

My dad, of course, was that type of crazy person – and he didn’t leave after Labor Day. He believed it was very important for his children to have Experiences that would Build Character. (We also got taken to a lot of museums and war memorials.)

In the past year, the presence of John McCain has intersected with my life on several occasions, although I have never met the senator. On the night he revealed his glioblastoma diagnosis, I saw the breaking news alert flash across the television screen in a waiting room at Maine Medical Center while my father underwent an MRI to see if his own cancer had spread to his brain. (It had spread to a lot of places, as it turned out.) I wondered who would succumb first – the 81-year-old with a brain tumor, or the 59-year-old with a gut full of melanoma. Thank goodness I’m not a betting person, because I would have bet on the 59-year-old and I would have lost, miserably.

Sen. McCain’s vote against partially repealing the Affordable Care Act has been important to my life as well. After my father died, my family lost our insurance, because it came through his job. I was able to get on my employer’s health insurance plan, but my mother is self-employed. She and my teenage sister have had to purchase insurance through the ACA exchanges – exchanges that are still viable thanks in part to McCain’s vote.


In fact, I have a short video that I now treasure, taken about a month before my dad died. In it, my dad – always the politics nerd – is slightly stoned off medical marijuana. Behind the camera, I am slightly tipsy off non-medical wine.

Dad is re-enacting the vote against the “skinny repeal,” first drawing a diagram of the Senate chamber floor on my mom’s most recent issue of House Beautiful magazine and then playing the parts of both Mitch McConnell and John McCain casting his “no” vote, making sure to raise his arm no higher than shoulder height. “And why can’t he raise his arms above his head?” Dad asks me. “BECAUSE OF THE VIETNAM WAR!” I reply, way too loudly. (I am still a dramatic kid.)

My boyfriend asked me this week why I was obsessing over John McCain when I disagreed with roughly 85 percent of the votes he has taken. Part of it is the still very fresh grief over my father and my uncle Tim (also a Vietnam veteran) dying of cancer this year. But I think it is mostly because I get the sense that though we might disagree on policy issues– tax rates, immigration procedures, health care policy – Sen. McCain would look me in the eye, shake my hand and listen carefully to what I have to say. I suspect that he would understand that while I might have different ideas, I love the United States of America just as much as he does.

When he passes, after a long and fruitful life, there will be many tributes to and think pieces about John McCain. A lot of them will herald his death as “the end of an era.” I respectfully and strongly disagree. The American values that John McCain embodies – dignity, humility, integrity, respect – were born long before he was and will persist long into the future. When his watch has ended, he will lay down that torch. And it will be up to the rest of us to pick it up.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial

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