Obama honors McCain

At a ball given for his former opponent, the president-elect says "few Americans understand [the] need for common purpose and common effort better than John McCain."

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 20, 2009 12:45AM (EST)

Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as president of the United States. Monday night, he's honoring the man he defeated in the race for the job.

Obama will speak at the event, which is being billed as the "Bipartisan Dinner." Excerpts of his remarks about his former rival, as prepared for delivery, are below.

I'm here tonight to say a few words about an American hero I have come to know very well and admire very much -- Senator John McCain. And then, according to the rules agreed to by both parties, John will have approximately thirty seconds to make a rebuttal...

[A]fter the season of campaigning has ended, each of us in public life has a responsibility to usher in a new season of cooperation built on those things we hold in common. Not as Democrats. Not as Republicans. But as Americans.

And there are few Americans who understand this need for common purpose and common effort better than John McCain. It is what he has strived for and achieved throughout his life. It is built into the very content of his character.

I could stand here and recite the long list of John's bipartisan accomplishments. Campaign finance reform. Immigration. The Patients' Bill of Rights. All those times he has crossed the aisle and risked the ire of his party for the good of his country. And yet, what makes John such a rare and courageous public servant is not the accomplishments themselves, but the true motivation behind them.

It has not been a quest for fame or vanity that has driven this man. It has not been the need to compromise for politics' sake that has shaped his distinguished career. It is rather a pure and deeply felt love of his country that comes from the painful knowledge of what life is like without it...

I'd like to close by asking all of you to join us in making this bipartisan dinner not just an inaugural tradition, but a new way of doing the people's business in this city. We will not always agree on everything in the months to come, and we will have our share of arguments and debates. But let us strive always to find that common ground, and to defend together those common ideals, for it is the only way we can meet the very big and very serious challenges that we face right now.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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