Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly reported that Sen. John McCain would speak April 2 at the U.S. Naval Academy. The speech will be at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

A Campaign Tour of Places From His Past

Sen. John McCain speaks at Mississippi State University at Meridian, where his ancestors are from, as part of a biographical tour.
Sen. John McCain speaks at Mississippi State University at Meridian, where his ancestors are from, as part of a biographical tour. (By Marianne Todd -- Getty Images)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MERIDIAN, Miss., March 31 -- Sen. John McCain returned to his ancestral home state Monday to begin a week-long tour aimed at reintroducing himself to the American people and highlighting his military background.

Speaking not far from McCain Field, the naval air station named for his grandfather, the senator from Arizona called himself the "son and grandson of admirals" and recounted in detail his family's decades of military service.

"My grandfather was an aviator; my father a submariner," McCain said. "They were my first heroes, and their respect for me has been one of the most lasting ambitions of my life. They gave their lives to their country and taught me lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership."

The speech was largely a condensed version of his book "Faith of My Fathers," a biography that traces his upbringing and the Navy careers of his grandfather, his father and himself.

The event began a week of stops in significant places in McCain's life. He will return Tuesday to Alexandria's Episcopal High School, which he attended. Tomorrow he will speak at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. On Thursday, he will head to Florida, where he was posted and received military flight training.

Aides hope the week-long trip will cement in the public's mind McCain's personal history and his military service. The tour will end Saturday with a rally in Arizona on the courthouse steps where then-Sen. Barry Goldwater announced his presidential bid in 1964.

Before McCain walked onto a stage Monday in front of a banner that said "Service to America," the campaign played two videos -- one comparing the presidential candidate to Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt, and the other emphasizing his commitment to service.

McCain's daughter Meghan; his wife, Cindy; and his mother, Roberta, sat on the stage beside him as he gave the speech. He recounted how he grew up "under the influence of strong, capable, accomplished women." As he does frequently, McCain also used the opportunity to warn against government intrusion in family life, saying that "no government is capable of caring for children as attentively and wisely as the mother and father who love them."

He said that money "must not be squandered" by the government, and he repeated his call for new programs to train workers displaced by the economic downturn.

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