Never let adversity hold you back. Let it inspire you.

There’s a line in a song by The Band Perry –  If I Die Young – “Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin”. Senator John McCain didn’t die young, but millions across America and throughout the world are listening, learning and being inspired by his life story. Count me among the millions.

There is so much to learn from the life of John McCain. What I have learned is to never let adversity hold you back, but to let it inspire you.

Since my defeat as a candidate in the Democratic Primary for Governor of New Jersey, I have continued my advocacy for the causes that shaped my forty year long record in the New Jersey Legislature – fighting for New Jersey’s economy, environmental protection, social and criminal justice, Women’s Rights, LGBT Rights, Recovery from Addiction, Education and Animal Welfare, but when I was defeated in the gubernatorial campaign, I questioned my advocacy. Not now.

Defeat was never questioned by John McCain. It inspired him. With every setback, from the most severe physical and emotional adversity, being shot down, seriously injured and tortured, to being defeated twice in presidential campaigns, John McCain got stronger. His voice got louder, if that was even possible. He continued fighting for America’s interests even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

John McCain was more than a war hero. He was an American hero fighting to the very end for America’s values, standing up to President Trump’s devaluing our NATO allies and his meekness on the world stage next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

America has been the beneficiary of being lead by giants among men and women. Our Democracy creates an atmosphere that breeds giants to lead our country to greater and greater heights. John McCain was a giant. He endured suffering and defeat, but never let it hold back his advocacy for American values. His life lives on in the millions of lives who are now listening – Never let adversity hold you back, let it inspire you.

Former Senator Lesniak is a US Army Veteran and served in the New Jersey Legislature from 1978 – 2017.  He has formed The Lesniak Institute For American Leadership at Kean University to teach the next generation of American Leaders to turn their passions into action through advocacy.