Mourners might not remember John McCain primarily as a communicator.
He was a loyal public servant, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, a six-term senator for Arizona, a fighter pilot who spent more than five years as a POW in North Vietnam, and a “maverick” of American politics.
He wasn’t a renowned orator like Presidents John Kennedy and Barack Obama, nor friendly and folksy, like Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
His was the laconic speech of warriors, a prickly delivery that could be humorous and biting—and highly effective.
Here are some lessons for communicators from a singular American leader:
1. Show respect for your opponents.
McCain was careful to avoid the more toxic rhetoric surrounding Obama, his Democratic opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign. McCain famously rebuffed a woman at a town hall event when she called the democratic hopeful an “Arab” and described him as untrustworthy.
McCain started shaking his head before she even finished her question, taking the microphone and pushing back emphatically on her incorrect statement.