ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) – Day two of John McCain’s “Service to America” biographical tour took him back to Episcopal High School outside Washington, DC.The Arizona senator - who was part of Episcopal's graduating class of 1954 - told students and faculty that he had fond memories of the school but that there were “a few that I'm sure former teachers, school administrators and I would rather forget.”
McCain added that he resented the title of “worst rat” he was given after his freshman year, first-years being known as “rats” at Episcopal.
Much of McCain’s remarks focused on his English teacher and football coach William Ravenel, whose “influence in my life was more important and more benevolent than that of any person outside my family.”
High praise for his former instructor was shared with today’s teachers who McCain feels do a job that “is among the most honorable professions any American can join.” He added that he supported “No Child Left Behind” but that schools should be held more accountable if students don’t perform well.
As he usually does, McCain opened up the floor to questions following his speech. Several students asked how his time at Episcopal influenced his life, but one student was more curious about his motivation for the visit.
“What exactly is your purpose in being here?” asked junior Katelyn Halldorson, saying she was told the speech wasn’t supposed to be a political event but it was clear that it wasn't "completely absent political motivation."
“I knew I should have cut this thing off. This meeting is over,” McCain joked before summarizing the bio tour and explaining that his goal is to “try to emphasize the values and principles that guided me and I think a lot of this country in the past but also portray a vision of how I think we need to address the challenges of the future.”
McCain said he didn’t know if attendance was mandatory (it was) and apologized to Halldorson if that was the case.
What did she think of McCain’s response? He “beat around the bush.”
- CNN Political Producer Alexander Marquardt