In her most extensive comments since her husband’s death, Cindy McCain is urging Americans to “get into the arena and fight” and support a think tank bearing the name of the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“The McCain Institute for International Leadership is now my home, and my mission,” Cindy McCain wrote in an op-ed published Friday morning in USA Today. “With your support we will pay his legacy forward.”

In her piece, McCain said the institute will strive to fulfill her husband’s mission of “serving a cause greater than ourselves,” a theme that was highlighted during memorial services last week.

The institute, which is based in Washington and is affiliated with Arizona State University, was created in 2012 with an $8.7 million donation in unused funds from John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.


Its fundraising practices generated controversy in 2016 after a report that the Saudi government had donated $1 million to the nonprofit’s fundraising arm.

The senator sought to distance himself from the institute after the report, telling reporters, “I’m proud that the institute is named after me, but I have nothing to do with it — except that they use my name.”

A spokeswoman later explained that McCain meant to express that he had no ties to the Saudi donation.

The institute’s mission statement says it is “guided by values that have animated” McCain’s career and his family. It has run an internship program and holds events focused on issues such as human trafficking and national security.


McCain died Aug. 25 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

“John McCain fought for others every day of his life, whether he was wearing a uniform or standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Cindy McCain wrote in her op-ed.

“With his passing, America inherently understood that this is the kind of leadership we want. That this is the kind of country we want to be,” she said. “And that it is now up to us — all of us — to get into the arena and fight.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.