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Opinion
Opinion: John McCain, a passion for doing right


"It's been nearly 20 years since I sat next to Sen. John McCain in a helicopter flying over the White Mountains, but I remember my impression of the man: a steady gaze, keen intellect and a passion to do what is right.

On March 29, 1989, the White Mountain Apache Tribe honored McCain as a warrior and as a United States senator. At the time, I was editor of the tribal newspaper, the Fort Apache Scout.

Tribal Chairman Reno Johnson had invited him to tour the reservation. McCain was expecting to go on a fact-finding tour. He wasn't expecting a hero's welcome. When he stepped off the helicopter onto the landing strip in Whiteriver, he had a smile that would charm a grizzly bear. He wasn't wearing a military uniform with medals. He wasn't even wearing a suit and tie. He was dressed to work - jeans, flannel shirt and sneakers.

In 1989 he was the senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee for Indian Affairs. In addition to his work on the committee, he saw his role as explaining issues facing Native people to others in Washington. He said, "Not only is there a vast lack of knowledge about Indian affairs in the country as a whole, but frankly, there is a lack of concern."

As we were coming into Whiteriver, I asked him why he cared about Native issues when their voting power is relatively insignificant. "Your involvement in Indian affairs is probably going to cost you votes in Arizona," I said.

He looked at me with that now-famous frown and said, "You do some things just because they are the right thing to do."

I don't know if ambition has changed John McCain. I hope not. I like to remember him in jeans and a flannel shirt sitting next to me in a helicopter flying low over the White Mountains."

Get the Story:
Jo Baeza: The day McCain showed his colors (The White Mountain Independent 5/30)

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