I Was Privileged to Meet Senator John McCain

Marty Petty meeting Senator John McCain
September 2, 2018
January 14, 2021
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The tearfully moving eulogy Meghan McCain gave for her beloved father, the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018, spoke for all of us who had the privilege to meet him, even if it was for a brief 30 minutes.

I met Senator and presidential candidate McCain on June 5, 2008. I was president of the Florida Press Association. It was customary in presidential election years for the state’s publishers and editors to meet jointly with the candidates, providing them a very influential audience in a very important state.

There I was, backstage, with McCain and his wife, Cindy, waiting until it was time for the three of us to walk on stage, so I could introduce him. We’d never met, yet he spoke with me as if we had know one another for years. He talked about how protection of the First Amendment was so vital to our freedoms as Americans. We talked about our mutual friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, who by some coincidence had shared with McCain that he knew me from when I was publisher of The Hartford Courant. McCain asked if our daughter was following in my footsteps. Then he asked what was most important for my journalistic colleagues to hear that day?

I suggested he talk about what he stands for and why our journalistic endeavors are vital to keeping America not just a world power, but a world leader.

Following the entire, four-hour funeral, I could not help but wonder what McCain’s scores would have been had he experienced the unique assessment we use in our work today with teams and individuals at The MPETTY Group. I was certain his scores on The Hartman Value Profile™, would reflect the character of a man who was trusted, authentic, self-determined, and whose unwavering values–values that guided him through some of the most horrific experiences a human could endure–influenced the choices he had to make throughout his distinguished career.

We would see through the tool’s results that he never rested through the many roles he held. He consistently demonstrated strong judgment in his work decisions, to successfully and relentlessly get the job done, no matter how hard the decisions. His colleagues all knew they could depend upon McCain in any situation - no matter how difficult - and could always find the middle ground, despite differences of opinion.

The tool would reflect his deep savvy and intuitive sense of others, a strength that gave him the exceptional capacity to build lifelong, deep relationships with a universal, model tolerance for all who were different from him. We witness one of these friendships in where he is being laid to rest today, next to his wartime “wingman,” Adm. Chuck Larson. The two men had agreed they’d be buried next to one another some day. My former Courant Hill reporter, David Lightman wrote in the Capital Gazette on Aug. 31 of this year: “In 1998, it was time to pick out the burial site. Larson looked around the Naval Academy Cemetery and found a lush green spot on a hill, overlooking the Severn River. As Larson, aide Mark Donohue and Larson’s wife drove back to the Buchanan House from the cemetery, Larson called McCain. ‘I found you a spot right next to me and we have a water view,’ Donohue recalled Larson saying.”

McCain’s dedication to his country was a “calling,” and it was from his isolation as a prisoner of war, that his “calling” to serve was forever cast. The tool’s results would reflect his devotion to his country and his work through the engagement score.  Even as he fought for his life, he fought for what he thought was right to his very last day on the Senate floor. He saw himself as an independent thinker and doer - the ideal score for those who are visionary, inspirational leaders.

It was highly likely that had the creator of The Hartman Value Profile™, Robert S. Hartman, a renowned German scholar, met John MCCain, they would have established a lifelong bond. Hartman had led one of the earliest insurgencies against Adolf Hitler, taking great risks with his life, and eventually changing his name and fleeing Hitler’s soldiers to London. Hartman became obsessed with one question. “If a man could organize power around evil, we must be able to organize power around goodness.”

Hartman eventually left a career with Disney and returned to his scholarly work, which earned a nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1973, the year of his sudden death. He believed that if he could develop a way to gain deeper insights into people, it would give teams and individuals information that could help them grow personally and professionally. If dedicated to self-growth, the insights would position them to work at their highest capacity and purpose, regardless of how the individual defined “work.” However, Hartman knew it would be the measuring of a person’s “Strength of Self” that would ultimately determine one’s capacity to maximize work performance.

The tool’s essence is to measure the lens we bring to our judgments about people, work and strategic thinking by applying a complex set of algorithms based upon our values.
Marty Petty and John McCain shake hands on stage.
Marty Petty and John McCain FL Press Association 2008 (c) Mark Petty

I can only believe that the man whose unwavering values, the values he demonstrated daily in his career and life, would be among the strongest ever seen in our database of 50 years. I firmly believe McCain and Hartman would have been be intrinsically linked by their strong moral compasses and humility.

We work with people in organizations across all industries, including the military, where we hope those who keep us safe have the Strength of Self and Strength of Judgment we saw in John McCain.

Two photographs hang in my office side-by-side: the first from an evening spent honoring Senator Lieberman in DC, and the second from the day I met Senator McCain during his presidential run. Senator Lieberman’s eulogy of John McCain, and the deep affection they had for one another, reminded me again that I am the lucky one, not only to have known them, but to be reminded daily by the photos of their values as leaders and people and the mark they have made on me. They will continue to inspire me in my work to find and help build those destined to lead others.

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