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How John McCain’s Children Were Shaped by His Political Career
The late Senator was famously reticent to discuss his seven children.
There’s an old adage about running for office: when a person runs, their whole family runs along with them. And yet, in an era where the private is increasingly public, John McCain managed to keep his family life largely out of the spotlight.
Though his own actions were very much in the public sphere, the late Senator.
who passed away on Saturday after a prolonged battle with brain cancer, eschewed calling attention to his family or sharing tidbits of their personal lives.
It was a particularly impressive feat, considering that his brood included seven children born across four decades.
“It’s intentional,” McCain once said
when questioned about the conspicuous absence of his family during his 2008 presidential campaign. “I just feel it’s inappropriate for us to mention our children.
… I’d like them to have their own lives. I wouldn’t want to seem like I’m trying to gain some kind of advantage. I just feel that it’s a private thing.”
With the exceptions of Cindy McCain
who stood by her husband’s side throughout his political career and during his recent battle with cancer.
and their daughter Meghan, who has made a name for herself as a political and pop-culture commentator.
the other members of the McCain family have mostly opted for low-profile lifestyles that have garnered little public attention.
And yet, from their places in the background, each member of the McCain family helped to shape the Senator into the man who became a major public figure.
and worked at the heart of the American political scene.
John McCain married his first wife, Carol, in 1965. She was, at the time, a single mother of two boys and would within their first year of marriage give birth to a daughter as well.
Their life as a young family was cut short in 1967 when McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and held there as a prisoner of war.
Carol took on the job of raising her three children on her own
finally welcoming McCain home when he was released in 1973.
However, the years and traumas had taken a toll on their marriage. “As dad progressed, he was gone a lot, doing a lot of international travel.
and it was putting a little stress on the marriage,” their son Andy recalled in the documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.
In 1979, McCain met Cindy
who would become his second wife a scant six weeks after his divorce from Carol was finalized.
“I was pretty much blindsided and it broke my heart,” Carol said in the documentary.
Despite the rocky end to their marriage, though, Carol and McCain maintained a warm relationship in the ensuing decades.
“A lot of people tried to get me to say bad things about him during [the 2008 presidential campaign,” she stated.
And I was like, ‘Are you crazy .
The courtship between McCain and his second wife was brief. At the time, she was working a special education teacher in Arizona and happened be invited to a reception that McCain was attending.
“He introduced himself to me and I just didn’t know what to expect,” Cindy stated in the documentary. “What I saw was this incredible human being that was a lot of fun to be around.”
Within a year of meeting, the 43 year old McCain would propose 25 year old Cindy. “I really didn’t think he’d propose,” Cindy said.
He was older. I knew he cared very deeply for me. I did know that.”
The couple wed in 1980, and over the course of their 38 year marriage would go on to have four children, run multiple political campaigns including two bids for the presidency.
and work side by side in efforts both political and humanitarian.
The eldest of McCain’s children, Doug, 58, was the first of Carol McCain’s two sons from her first marriage.
After wedding Carol, McCain quickly adopted Doug and his younger brother, Andy. Though McCain was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and held there as a prisoner of war until 1973.
it’s obvious that his service made a serious impression on his oldest son.
Like his father, Doug would go on to become a pilot in the Navy and now serves as a captain for American Airlines, a company that shared a moving tribute to the late Senator.
“Senator McCain will be sorely missed but his impact lives on.
We will not forget his shining example of patriotism based on the ideals of freedom and equality for all and global leadership by the United States in support of those ideals,”
the airline said in a statement, offering condolences to the McCain family and Doug in particular.
The youngest of Carol’s sons, 56-year-old Andy also chose to follow a path deeply intwined with his adopted father’s life, though in a distinctly different way from his brother’s.
Like all three children from McCain’s first marriage, Andy had a strained start with his stepmother Cindy .
(neither Doug, Andy, nor Sidney reportedly attended the couple’s 1980 wedding ceremony), but the two evidently developed close ties over the years.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and MBA from Vanderbilt.
Andy started working for Hensley Beverage Company, a beverage distributorship in association with Anheuser-Busch.
The company was founded in 1955 by Cindy’s father, Jim Hensely; Andy has served as an executive there for many years.
Born just a year before her father’s plane was shot down over Vietnam, Sidney, 51, was just 9 months old when her father was captured.
“I didn’t really have a father to miss because I didn’t know what a father was,” she told the New York Times of the five and a half years of her childhood during McCain’s absence.
Upon his return, she said, “I remember my dad just squeezing me and not wanting to let me go. It was very overwhelming at the time.”