He fought to the end and never gave up hope. And despite trailing in the opinion polls against his young rival, John McCain was right to believe in himself. At 72, the underdog’s White House dreams have finally come true. The man once held in the infamous jail dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” can now serve America at the highest level.
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s,” he has told supporters.
“I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I was not my own man anymore. I was my country’s.”
McCain has made his dedication to service the central theme of his campaign. He has highlighted his experience and knowledge of foreign affairs – thus compensating for his main shortcoming in critics’ eyes: his age.
A committed Republican, McCain has nonetheless often been at odds with his party. He has stressed his differences with George W. Bush’s administration.
He fought and lost a bruising battle with Bush, then the governor of Texas, for the Republican nomination eight years ago. At the time, McCain described the job he was preparing to take on.
“The President is a lonely man in a dark room, when the casualty reports comes in. I am not afraid of that burden. I know both the blessing and the price of freedom.”
The son and grandson of US admirals, McCain became a navy pilot. In 1967, his plane was shot down over North Vietnam. In five and a half years as a prisoner of war he was beaten and abused.
McCain met Cindy Lou Hensley in 1979 while still married to his first wife. They married the next year, just after his divorce came through.
The heiress to a large Arizona beer distributorship, Cindy has devoted much of his life to humanitarian work. She and John already had three children together when they adopted Bridget, brought back by Cindy from an orphanage in Bangladesh.
“This is a good man, a worthy man. I know. I have loved him with all my heart for almost 30 years,” she has said.
So the McCain/Palin ticket has confounded the pollsters, beating Barack Obama. Now it is down to the new president, the oldest ever to begin a first term in the White House, to prove that he too can bring about change, as he has so often promised to do.