A Teacher Provided the Spark for John McCain’s Mentoring Legacy

senator-john-mccain-2016-candidate-arizonaThe Peer Resources’ Mentor Hall of Fame has more than 20,000 examples of mentoring relationships. As a way to honor the legacy of Senator John McCain, here’s a story from the Hall of Fame about this American hero’s involvement in mentoring.

Panama Canal-born American John McCain (1936–2018), a member of the US Congress since 1982; a 1958 graduate of the US Naval Academy, a pilot who was captured and imprisoned in 1967 during the American War in Vietnam, and former two-time candidate for President of the United States, identified his high school teacher and former soldier, William Ravenel (1914–1968), as a mentor who changed his life; and Texas Senator John Tower (1925–1991), as a mentor he thought of as a “father to me in many respects” during the time Lt. Commander McCain served in Washington, D.C. as a Naval attache.

“When I was at a boy’s boarding school, Mr. Ravenel gave me some moorings and a compass,” Senator McCain stated on Harvard’s “Who Mentored You?” website. Not only did his teacher make “Shakespeare come alive,” for the Senator, but he was also someone “whom I confided my reservations about my destiny.”

Another student at the school described Mr. Ravenel as “a leader of men,” who “used a sense of humor instead of force.” The fellow student noted that the “effort Ravenel expended on McCain was profound: He tried to make McCain become a better person.” (Source: Alexander, P. (2002). Man of the people: The life of John McCain. New York, Wiley.)

Senator McCain described an example of his mentor’s efforts. A situation occurred where John McCain had to take difficult stance with regards to the actions of another student. When the situation ended, his mentor shook his hand and told him how proud he was of what he had said to his peers.

“I have never forgotten the confidence his praise gave me,” Senator McCain said. That memory served him well during his years as a prisoner of war as he was faced on a daily basis with maintaining honorable behavior. “I think that a mentor can help you through difficult periods, help you see the difference between right and wrong. The world is more complicated for children today than it ever was when I was growing up. A mentor can provide you with the kind of idealism that you can look up to and attempt to emulate. What I believe young people find very useful is someone that they can contact and interact with, and frankly express their doubts and their concerns and their questions. We have found through scientific study that a mentor can dramatically impact a young person’s life. I knew that Mr. Ravenel had a great impact on me. But I don’t think I really understood how deeply he impacted me until I was in prison, because it was his example I looked to when I was tempted to do something which was less than honorable.”(Source: McCain, J. & Salter, M. (1999). Faith of my fathers. New York: Random House.)

After Senator McCain died in August 2018, several politicians came forward to acknowledge his mentoring, including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobucher; South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; and Maine Senator Angus King.

CNN commentator Dana Bash reported on Senator McCain’s mentoring activities: “He spent a lot of time mentoring younger senators on both sides of the aisle including Delaware Senator Chris Coons; and Florida Senator Marco Rubio; and many others.”

Ms. Bash went on to report that Senator McCain “traveled extensively with them [those he mentored] all over the globe in order to spend time with them; in order for them to understand where he’s coming from; and to show them how it’s done.”

Maine Senator Susan Collins expressed a sentiment echoed by all he mentored: “I’ll miss how much fun he was, and how much I learned from him. He leaves a big hole in my heart.”

For additional stories or details about mentoring relationships from all walks of life, visit the Peer Resources’ Mentor Hall of Fame.

A Mentor Dies And His Influence Continues

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.28.32 PMI am saddened by the death of my friend and mentor. Our souls were intertwined from the start, but events in recent years broke our capacity to express what we meant to each other. We both longed for what we had been to each other, yet neither of us could find the path for a return.

Many others who were the glue between us, knew of the public reasons for our estrangement, but only he and I knew what really happened. Knowing the private reason or tolerating the public perception does not diminish my love for him. Nor does it reduce the impact he had on my life.

We could exchange ideas, thoughts, and feelings of a personal and professional nature all in the same sentence. Our life work shared the same DNA. When we worked on projects together, we both achieved greater heights than either of us could have ascended to alone.

We yearned for the same things. We held hands, we locked arms, and we laughed uproariously when we encountered common obstacles. Once when we discovered a memo that called us “a pair of axxholes,” we were more delighted than offended.

Our friendship, companionship, and ability to learn from each other was probably deeper and more intimate than most men are able to attain in their lifetime. I am grateful for what we had and I will always treasure everything that we were to each other.

The smile and twinkle are gone. The greeting and enthusiasm that set aglow the inner fire are now memories. A twist of fate allowed us to have time together before death claimed his body. Our conversation brought joy to both our spirits and the healing path emerged.

Death, we both discerned long ago, turns us all into philosophers. Tragedy requires us to reassess our relationship with the temporal world and the expanse of the universe. My mentor said, “Why wait for such trauma to occur? Why not help people know themselves in the world without having to gain such knowledge through tragic circumstance?”

He called this help “socio-dynamic” counselling. With a few simple principles, he launched a system that has influenced helping professionals around the world and has left a legacy of practitioners, researchers, and teachers.

His death, like his life, touches our most inner world. Despite our grief, our tears and our longing for him, we carry forward the larger question that was most dear to his being: “What is my place in the cosmos?” And within that question, we struggle with a more immediate enquiry: “What can I do to help?”

I cannot say what I will miss most. The suspenders? The unique clothing? The Moroccan chicken? The unwillingness to engage in chit-chat? The fine wines? The insights? The stories of ranch life? The garden oasis? The gatherings? The walks? The battles with the dragons? The challenge to engage? Doing your best? Living authentically? Inspiring writing? Emotional intelligence? Road trip snoring?

What we meant to each other, what we did for each other, and how we were to each other has left me with exceptional solace. I wish, however, that I could have said “I love you,” before only his soul could hear me. Oh, brother, where art thou? Are you yet again paving the way for my travels?

(This mentoring story is an excerpt from my book on mentoring, “Shaping the Future: 150+ Canadian Mentoring Relationships That Make Canada Great, Creative, Innovative, Productive, Successful and Welcoming.”  The book was written to coincide with the celebration Canada’s 150th Anniversary. It includes more than 150 examples of mentoring relationships from all walks of life in Canada including sports, history, leadership, the arts, entertainment, acting, Broadway, music, politics, and business. It also includes ideas about the key principles associated with mentoring; how mentoring and coaching are the same and different; illustrations of mentoring relationships from my own life (such as the story above) and what I learned from them; and examples of mentoring relationships experienced by well-known and lesser-known Canadians. To make it easier to find particular people and who mentored whom, I’ve included a name index. The book is available from Amazon.)

 

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Helping Children Help Each Other

PEERS3When students experience a worry, concern or frustration, they are more likely to turn to each other for help. But the others often do not know what to do to help even though they have a strong desire to aid their friends. K-8 trained and supervised peer helpers can provide the help needed for their peers to improve their mental health, reduce academic and social barriers, and find more value in school.

This project, run by Canada’s most experienced and longest running peer program leaders has the potential for reaching 439,611 students in 895 K-8 schools in British Columbia.

Help me increase the number of peer helpers in K-8 schools in this mailing campaign to provide peer helper recruiting and information posters to schools. Even if only 1% of students wind-up volunteering, that means that more than 4000 additional students will be helping their peers across the Province.

Each poster has a place for the individual school to place their own personalized contact information. The donated posters are valued at $5.00 each, but the mailing costs to schools, including a mailing tube and postal delivery, are about $12.00 per mailing. The funds raised by this campaign will be used to cover mailing costs for as many posters as we can mail out. All labour will be donated by Peer Resources.

Persons who donate more than $100.00 will be eligible to select any of Peer Resources’ mentoring and peer support e-books in appreciation for a donation.