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ASU students and staff mourn the loss of Sen. John McCain at Arizona State Capitol

Thousands gathered at the Capitol to offer McCain an emotional farewell from the state he called home


Members of the Arizona National Guard carry Sen. John McCain’s casket at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018.

Among the thousands of people gathered at the Arizona State Capitol to mourn the loss of Senator John McCain were ASU students and staff, who, compelled by McCain's outsized impact on state politics and his interactions with the University, felt the need to commemorate the late lawmaker and his legacy. 

McCain, who died on Saturday, served as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate for decades, during which time he cultivated a reputation as a maverick who wasn't afraid to put country over party, especially during the administration of Donald Trump. 

He is the namesake for the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank tied to ASU, and he's spoken at the University on several occasions. 

ASU President Michael Crow was in attendance at McCain's lying in state, which began with a private reception in the rotunda of the Capitol building. Crow will also attend McCain's memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist church Thursday morning, and will follow McCain to D.C. where the Senator's body will lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, according to an ASU spokesperson.  

"If you grew up in Arizona, you know who John McCain is," said Judah Waxelbaum, a sophomore studying political science and chairman of the Arizona Federation of College Republicans. Waxelbaum volunteered to hand out water to the waiting mourners, who formed a line stretching for blocks down Jefferson Street. "The opportunity to volunteer seemed like the least I could do given all he's done for this state."

McCain's body arrived in a black car and was greeted by uniformed personnel lining the street, leading up to the Capitol. Once parked, members from the National Guard transported him from the car into the rotunda. 

Rev. Eddie Reese, former president of Brophy College Preparatory, where McCain’s sons went to high school, gave the opening prayer for the ceremony. 

Jon Kyl, a former U.S. Senator from Arizona, gave opening remarks at the service. 

Kyl said many people can disagree with McCain’s political views, but they should not diminish their gratitude for his service.

“America is stronger because of his fierce defense of our values,” he said. 

Waxelbaum said he looks up to McCain, whose office he worked in as an intern during the Senator's last reelection campaign, in part because of McCain's ability to work with Democrats.

"The people on the other side of the aisle are not enemies," he said. "They are other Americans with political disagreements. I can understand that someone can be a good person even if we disagree on policy."

McCain, though he voted with the party the vast majority of the time, was a frequent critic of President Trump and other GOP leaders and presidents. 

Mason Salisbury, a computer science senior, paid his respects to McCain in the early evening.

He said the gathering of people from all political parties and backgrounds unified behind something was encouraging, even if what brought them together was loss. 

"All walks of life and backgrounds were there to pay respects in the same way, and that's unique," he said. 

Salisbury said that though his family are mostly Democrats, McCain proved his character to him in 2008, when the then-failed presidential nominee defended Barack Obama from a woman who claimed she couldn't trust him because he was an "Arab."

Armando Flores, the director of baseball administration and community affairs for the ASU baseball team, said he came to the ceremony because he feels McCain did many important things for Arizona. 

Flores said he had the chance to meet McCain while he was working for the Fiesta Bowl and had one particular memory of the senator that stuck out. 

"Without ever knowing me, I was introduced to him and immediately he turned to the photographer and said 'Will you please take our picture?' and that's the kind of guy he was," he said. "It didn't matter who you were or what your status was in the community."

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