Mary Coleman: Building an adult


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, September 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

The recent death of a longtime U.S. senator got the attention of WORLD Radio’s Mary Coleman.

MARY COLEMAN, COMMENTATOR: I happen to live at a boys’ boarding school, and this Virginia school has a fierce rivalry with John McCain’s high school alma mater. As I drove through our campus on my way to church the day after McCain died, the school’s American flag was flying at half-staff.

Capturing my attention just beyond the flag was a giant banner, hung from the school’s most historic building. The banner read, Welcome New Boys. 100 parents were dropping their sons off at boarding school that day.

My thoughts turned immediately to Roberta McCain, John McCain’s 106-year old mother. She had dropped her Johnny off at boarding school in 1951, hoping he would grow up to be a man of character. She was not disappointed. She lived to see her son honored as a hero and a patriot; a man of integrity and courage; a maverick and a public servant.

Few of us raise children who become prisoners of war or senators, but all children can develop good character with their parents’ help.  

In the political arena nowadays, allegiance to party platform seems to matter more than character. When church leaders fail, it’s equally distressing.

On the home front, we parents often focus more attention on what our kids achieve in school or in sports, what college they get into it, and how much money they make. This line of concern is embedded in our psyche as Americans. It’s what we are taught to care about.

But John McCain’s life and death have taught us that there is much more to success than these temporal matters. While in boarding school, McCain was mentored by a teacher whose lessons on honor and integrity inspired him throughout his life. During captivity and torture in Vietnam, he refused to be released ahead of his comrades, citing the military code of conduct that prisoners captured first should be released first. For me, few things speak to McCain’s character more than this.

And few things speak to his mother Roberta’s character than her disappointment upon hearing the expletives her son once used to describe his Vietnamese captors.  “I never taught you to use that kind of language, and I have half a mind to wash your mouth out with soap!”

McCain was six decades old when he received this rebuke from his mom. He recounts this story in his book, Character is Destiny.

I would like to leave parents and children alike with the following quote that captures the power of parental influence: And I quote: “Your best teachers, of course, are your parents. From their example, even more than their instruction, you will first learn to love virtue. Their responsibility to you is much more than to feed, clothe, and house you. You are, or should be, the great work of their lives.”

For WORLD Radio, I’m Mary Coleman.


(Photo/Mary Coleman)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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