“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does it take to be a legend? These past few weeks we have lost two legends, two very different legends, Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain. Two people that could not be more different, in their backgrounds, upbringings or their work. Yet, two people that were legends and at the end of their lives have been revered in the same way. So what made them legends?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP/REX/

Was it what they did when they were alive or how they are remembered when they are gone?

A legend is defined as; Legend – a person whose natural reflex is to be selfless and make an extraordinary effort to put others before themselves.

Aretha Franklin was known as one of the bestselling musical artist of all times, the Queen of Soul, an artist without boundaries, a trailblazer and someone who brought joy to all by sharing her passion and gifts with others. Her music made us think and her passion connected us all.

John McCain, an American who is the product of two Navy Admirals, his grandfather and father. A man tortured as a prisoner of war for over five years. A United States Senator that was known for standing for principals before politics, a maverick and a man who believed his true strength lied in his love of country.

Two different people that used their lives to make others lives better. They served by sharing their gifts. They are not nonprofit founders but they both exemplified the same traits. Individuals who give of themselves to make the world better.

Charity Matters is not a place for music or politics but a place to highlight remarkable everyday heroes who make our world better. John McCain’s last words, in his recently published book The Restless Wave, remind us that we all have the ability to do just that….make our world better than we left it. So as we celebrate  Labor Day today, I think these final words from Senator McCain explain why the word legend is so fitting.

“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. ‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in [Ernest Hemingway’s] ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.‘ And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.

I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.

What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”


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