McCain visits GCU, meets with students, veterans
Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
U.S. Sen. John McCain visited GCU’s campus on Friday morning to address more than 400 students, many of them veterans, on a range of issues from immigration reform and the “shameful” inefficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs to executive privilege and why Americans should care about the crisis in Ukraine.
During a 90-minute visit, which included a tour with President/CEO Brian Mueller, McCain spoke to a standing-room-only audience in Ethington Theatre about the unrest in Ukraine, where a corrupt few control the masses. He referred to “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a poem by John Donne that later influenced Ernest Hemingway’s book.
“Why do we care about Ukraine?” the Republican senator asked. “The theme of that poem is that all of us are part of humanity. These are young people who want a better life. They enjoy the same music you do, the same culture you do, the same books you do. They are Western-oriented Europeans who love America, and we should care about them because they are being brutally oppressed.”
McCain praised GCU for offering expanded opportunities and quality education at a lower cost to many students who otherwise could not afford college.
“This is a great experiment in education,” he said. “It should be an example to other institutions, not only in Arizona, but throughout the country.”
McCain, a former Navy POW during the Vietnam War, also posed for photos with nearly 100 GCU student veterans in the Arena and thanked them for their service.
“Our military is the best it has ever been,” he said. “We live in a very dangerous world, and I’m very sorry to note that the black flags of Al-Qaeda now fly over Fallujah (Iraq).”
In response to a question from a veteran who has waited months for a medical appointment at the VA, McCain said that while the people working at the agency do their best, the system is broken. He encouraged veterans who are having trouble getting through to the agency to contact his office.
“We need a more efficient organization, and we need more Congressional oversight,” he said. “It’s just shameful.”
Touching on immigration reform, McCain noted the impracticality of deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented workers “living in the shadows” and without protective rights in the United States, saying, “There aren’t enough buses in this country.”
He added: “And unless there are any Native Americans in this auditorium, we are all immigrants. Our country is great because of the constant influx of new blood and new ideas, so to say we don’t want anyone to come in would be the worst thing we could do.”
A bipartisan immigration reform bill, which McCain and seven other senators worked on, would add 20,000 Border Patrol agents, appropriate $8 billion to improve fencing and surveillance capabilities, and require 90 percent effective control at the borders, he said. It has Senate approval but is stalled in Congress.
“One reason our border is not secure is the demand for drugs that is created here in the United States of America,” he said. “We need to have a conversation about drugs, around the kitchen table, at the student union and in our classrooms.”
McCain complimented GCU’s administration and students for being committed to serving others in their communities, around the country and across the globe.
“One word of advice: There’s nothing that’s more noble than to serve a cause greater than yourself,” he said.
In response to a student question, McCain said President Obama has alienated Congress by stating “he has a pen and a phone, if Congress won’t agree to his agenda.” Unfortunately, he said, the only way to maintain the balance between the executive and legislative branches is through the court system.
McCain told another student he is not familiar with the specifics of a bill approved this week by the Arizona Legislature that would allow a business to reject service to any customer based on the owner’s religious beliefs. Opponents argue that the bill, which has yet to be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, is a way to legalize discrimination against the gay and lesbian community.
“As long as we are citizens, we are all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so I’m not sure I would agree you could refuse service to someone because of their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation,” McCain said.
Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or [email protected].