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Cindy McCain says her husband, John McCain, taught her 'how to live' in powerful speech

Watch Cindy McCain's 2019 George Washington University commencement address on the National Mall.
/ Source: Today

Cindy McCain delivered a moving speech at George Washington University’s 2019 commencement in Washington D.C. Sunday on the National Mall.

McCain, a philanthropist and the widow of the late Sen. John McCain, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree of public service by George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc.

“I totally owe this to my husband,” McCain began, who paused as the crowd erupted in applause. ”My husband taught me about sacrifice. He taught me about leadership, character-driven leadership. He taught me about generosity and humor.”

“And he taught me about the dignity for not only himself but for every human being no matter their race, creed, culture, anything,” she continued. “It’s about human dignity. And I think he was the one person I could look to, and did look to, for that kind of honored and esteemed education from him.”

To watch McCain’s speech, scroll to approximately the 1:32:00 mark of this video:

“He also in the end, he taught all of us how to live, live vivaciously, live elegantly, live with dignity and grace,” she went on to explain. “But he also taught me how to die. He taught me how to die with dignity. And he taught me what it was to honor not only his service, but honor himself.”

McCain’s husband, 2008 presidential nominee, passed away in August of 2018 at age 81, one year after his brain cancer diagnosis.

“So if I could leave you with anything today, among just a grace and humble thank you for all of this, I’d like you to remember in the decisions and the things that you will make as you leave this university today, please remember, always be true to yourself,” McCain finished. “Do everything you do from your heart. Listen to your heart. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful to be here and I’m very honored. Thank you. “

McCain could be seen fighting back tears as she walked away from the podium upon finishing her touching speech.

McCain has served in leadership roles advocating for the end to human trafficking and helping its victims, providing healthcare to children around the globe, and raising awareness to issues that young girls and women are facing in Africa. McCain is also the chairperson of her family’s business, Hensley Beverage Company, one of the nation’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributors.

Following McCain, TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie delivered her own commencement speech to the graduates.

Christine Darden, a former NASA engineer and author of the book that inspired the award-winning movie, “Hidden Figures,” spoke at the ceremony as well and received an honorary doctorate degree.

McCain also spoke at the commencement for the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University on Friday as their graduation celebration speaker.