Editor’s note: This essay is part of Deseret Magazine’s cover story “How to heal America’s partisan divide.”

Illustration by Kyle Hilton

In Arizona, we start teaching kids the word “respect” in grade school. 

If children can learn what it means to respect each other at the age of 6, elected officials can too, and it’s about time they remembered the meaning of the word. 

We, as Americans, should expect more from our leaders.

My husband used to say the most noble thing you can do is serve a cause greater than your own self-interest. Those are the words we both lived by, the words we taught our children and the words I continue to try and live up to.

John, an icon of decency in politics, believed in working with others, respecting those with different viewpoints and focusing on doing what was best for the country.

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Remembering John’s words and his actions while he served in the Senate made it hard to watch the events that unfolded over the last four years. I couldn’t understand how we got into this situation.

I told other women, we may not agree with Biden on every issue, but we have to step across the aisle and get the country back to a place where decency, honor and respect are core tenets to live and govern by.

That’s the message that resonated with Republican women, and the reason they decided to vote for Biden. Sen. Mitt Romney also provided an important reminder about what was really valuable in an elected official, and I’m so grateful for his hand in all of this.

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Biden has already made clear how he’ll lead: He will work for the good of the country rather than the good of himself and his own party. That’s the way he and John worked when they were both in the Senate. 

We should look to our elected officials and remind them to respect each other. John said it best in his concession speech in 2008. He said the people have spoken and have elected a new president and it’s time to heal the divide and move forward. I believe there’s only one way this country can heal: respect. 

Cindy McCain is an American businesswoman, philanthropist and humanitarian. She is the widow of 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain from Arizona and the mother of television host and commentator Meghan McCain.

This story appears in the January/February issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.

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