Cindy McCain’s life has been in the American political spotlight for four decades. Her late husband, Senator John McCain, was elected for six terms in the Senate. Oh, and he ran for president (twice). And Cindy was by his side for all of it. But before the White House races and the political spotlight, Cindy was a 20-something from Arizona who had to find her strength as a newbie in DC. And in 2018, she had to tap into her strength again in the face of personal tragedy.
Cindy: Through the years it became evident to me that me being taken seriously just wasn't going to happen. And there are people that knew my husband's first wife, who was a lovely woman, and continually compared me to her and all those things that occur when there's a second marriage. And through that, what I had to learn was that I had to make sure that people knew who I was and understood that, yes, I was intelligent and yes, I had something to say. But it was a long journey. I'll admit it.
Cindy: I was critiqued for everything: hair, makeup, face. "Oh, she's not smiling. She must be angry." So you couldn't win no matter what it was. If you smiled too much, "Ooh, she must be drinking." I mean, you name it. That's the kind of stuff that went on, but John and I were fair game. It was when they took out after our children. That really, that was when I drew the line and said, "This goes no further."
Carly: ...How did you learn to survive that? How did you learn to take feedback and know how to filter it?
Cindy: I stopped reading it. I stopped. I literally went cold-turkey and said "I'm not going to read another word about any of this." And I didn't. And some people may say, "Well, how could you do that?" And some people will say, "Well, that was stupid." For me, it was the right thing because I think, for many reasons, it could have been very damaging to me. You have to do what's right for you.
Carly: You lost your husband in 2018, which was a loss felt not only around the country, but around the world. The name of your book is called "Stronger." And you wrote about staying strong for others, even when your heart is breaking. [That’s a] nearly impossible thing to do. How did you do that? How have you done that?
Cindy: Through the illness and then through the immediate funeral and death...I had to. First of all, John would have been very disappointed in me if I'd been a blubbering mess, but number two, you find the strength because you now are the person that is the caretaker of your family. You're alone. You're the only one. And so always keeping in mind that I had to be strong for them.... And also, agree or disagree, but I felt like I needed to be strong for the country because we had stepped into a morass, and I believed that the country needed to see that not just me, but that the McCain family was strong and that his legacy would live on.
….It was the days after that that I learned how, again, to try to be strong. It was the days and months after that, when all of a sudden the people are gone, the food that everyone dropped off is gone, and you're alone in the house. And that's where you learn what strength is.
Skimm'd by Alex Carr and Peter Bonaventure
Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter.
Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.
“My main motto is lean on. I leaned on those women. They made me feel seen and cared for in what could be quite a cutthroat White House environment.”
“Stay in your lane” -- AshLee Strong, National Press Secretary for House Speaker Paul Ryan, on the worst advice she’s ever received.
"Building better workplaces for our employees [is]...essential to build resilient workforces and workplaces for the future."