War hero, patriot, Senator, father: These are all words that describe John McCain, a former Senator who passed away last August. Though McCain passed months ago, why is he relevant now? Why is he still referenced in the media? What lessons can we take away from McCain that can be applied to our everyday lives as students and faculty? He was a unifying force in a divisive time. Democrats and Republicans both admired him for his ability to reach across party lines to bring people together.

“Our shared values define us more than our differences,” McCain said. “And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”

This quote symbolizes the concept of shared understandings between conflicting parties. Consider the political polarization that occurs in your life, perhaps within your own family or friend group. Though you may disagree, what are some underlying similarities not yet discussed? What are the fundamentals are shared?

While serving in the military, McCain was captured by Vietnamese forces and imprisoned. Tortured relentlessly, he had to force himself to see the good in his life in order to keep a positive outlook. His reflections on America prove just as important in everyday life.

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s,” McCain said.

While no nation is without flaw, recognize the wonderful privileges we have as American citizens. The freedom that you have to speak your mind, participate in the free press and practice the religion of your choice are not freedoms enjoyed everywhere. These basic concepts are what makes us free and what makes us American, even if we disagree on ideas.

“We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears,” McCain said.

College is full of chances for courage, because college can have plenty of fearful moments. When you’re about to walk into that test, interview or meeting, keep in mind that you don’t have to be calm to be brave. Follow the advice of the late Senator and search for the things that bring everyone together. Take something from them and pass it on.