April 1st, 2008
03:15 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain visits alma mater, student asks why

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

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (23 Responses)

    McCain can't get anybody excited about nothing..... Another Bush.
    He don't care bout nobody but himself. and big shot cronieism!!

    April 1, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. Clinton is a ......

    And some really thought this guy can stand upto Obama?! How crooked is that thought. He can't even inspire students at his own alma mater.......


    April 1, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Red Dog from ND but now in Floida

    very astute student to see through mcbush

    April 1, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Anna, SW Missouri

    So, does the campaign now have to pay the school a fee for renting it as a political rally, or is that just another debt that the tax payers have to pay, just like his trip to the middle east and Europe a couple of weeks ago. Has the school sent an invitation to the Democrats, if it did not charge a fee to McCain?

    April 1, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Kathy, Andover

    Katelyn's education has served her well!

    April 1, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Penn State

    Wow!! Thanks CNN!! Now students everywhere are going to start asking ridiculous questions so that they can get there 15 minutes of fame.

    April 1, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. David In Des Moines

    Wow! that must be the oldest school in America. Isn't Mc cain like 109?

    April 1, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Shabazz

    Smart kid.

    April 1, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. Grif

    Yes! It seems there is even a 'McCain the Mentor'... Many a Book will be written, before this Guy is done. Some Story Line, this Guy has.... They'll Remember the Day John McCain called on that School, for years to come...

    April 1, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  10. kim portland, oregon

    GO KATELYN!!!!

    Katelyn in '28!!!!!!!!!!

    April 1, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. CultureGeek

    At least someone isn't giving McBush a free ride. Shame CNN is.

    April 1, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  12. Bayou Joe

    Shows that idiots do attend college. You risk your life to protect our country, spend 30+ years in a thankless job and some snot nose kid questions why you come to speak at the school. This is the new America that the Democrats want to give to us. No Thank you I want the America my parents built. Built on Trust, Faith and Patriotism.

    McCain was more diplomatic than I would have been on that question. Here is my answer. Part of the learning process is that you listen to other people's ideas and learn from that. You don't have to agree with them, but you must respect them, specially when you are going to college on my dime.

    I have two sons one in college and the other in the Marine Corp.
    They both respect their elders.

    April 1, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. Nicknas

    “What exactly is your purpose in being here?” asked junior Katelyn Halldorson

    OH SNAP!!! No fooling todays kids

    April 1, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Gary

    Clearly McCain should have avoided the high school and spoke at his college, though that probably would have been worse. He probably would have gotten a better reception.

    Kids in high school these days are more interested in when the next big game for the PSP will come out...

    April 1, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. Lesley

    At least some schools are teaching our children how to use their minds.

    April 1, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. Chuck Murphy

    Bully for her! This young lady just called McCain for playing the usual political gain on other people's time. Using high school students for political purposes is wrong. The leadership at this school should be called on the carpet.

    April 1, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    McCain is not just too old, he's senile and young people today ignore the heck out of old people. McCain would lose his temper in a minute knowing he can't hold their attention, good for them he's not a teacher but then again he would be retired.

    April 1, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. Tony in NM

    very smart kid

    April 1, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  19. Tyrone Brown, Seattle, WA

    Very smart Kid.

    Saw right through McCain and his campaign.

    Obama '08

    April 1, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  20. Mary

    Sorry John,but these kids are not from your time...don't you know?

    April 1, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  21. Sean

    Mandatory political message for our kids. Great! Good job Episcopal High School.

    April 1, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  22. Andrew

    Apparently "No Child Left Behind" means "No Child Excused from Political Rally and Photo Op" to Mr. McCain's campaign organizers.

    April 1, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  23. An Agnostic Democrat

    Wow! Did he even remember where he was "my friends" being that Joe Lieberman wasn't by his side to prompt him?

    April 1, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |