Speeches

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will deliver the following remarks at the opening and dedication of Kayla’s Hands Playground at Pioneer Park in Prescott, Arizona at 10:00 a.m. MST today. The playground was built in memory of Kayla Jean Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker who was taken captive in August 2013 in Aleppo, Syria and killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the young age of 26:

“Carl and Marsha, Eric, Kayla’s family and neighbors, friends, it’s an honor to be with you, and to say a few words about the young woman who we commemorate today and whose life inspired this project.

“Thank you, Gary, and thank you, Prescott Kiwanis Club for making this playground, Kayla’s Hands, possible. Thank you to everyone involved in its support, design and construction. Thank you for providing Prescott’s children, all Prescott’s children, a place of recreation and joy, named for someone who would have delighted in their happiness because Kayla Mueller was the kind of person who found her happiness in the happiness of others.

“When I was privileged to speak at Kayla’s memorial service last year, I quoted the psychiatrist, philosopher and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl, who wrote: ‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,’ he wrote, ‘the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’

“Frankl’s observation has long had great meaning for me. I wasn’t familiar with it when I served in Vietnam. But after I came home it helped me come to terms with my experiences there. Kayla’s example, the example of her life and death, put me in mind of it again. For surely, no one exemplified its wisdom better than she did.

“‘I have been shown in darkness, light, and have learned that even in prison, one can be free,’ Kayla wrote her family in an extraordinary testament to her courage and compassion.

“The way Kayla chose was the way of love; to love and to be loved; in moments of joy and sorrow, in happiness and suffering, to always, always love. She lived her life for others. She used her hands to relieve suffering. She was not just sympathetic to the plight of the less fortunate, she was moved to action. She was moved to sacrifice her own comforts and security to help strangers, to love them.

“Her fellow captives spoke of her as an inspiration, brave and defiant when she was abused and threatened, consoling and selfless to those who shared her suffering. ‘A protective big sister,’ one of them recalled. ‘She never stopped caring for others,’ another remembered.

“When her friends escaped, Kayla stayed knowing that were she to have left with them, their captors would have made a greater effort to recapture them. We call people ‘hero’ too lightly in our culture. Not many have the generosity, the selflessness, the humility to deserve the distinction. But Kayla did.

“And by humility, I don’t mean modesty, though that quality can be part of it. I mean it in the sense my faith teaches: to know I have no less dignity than any other human being, and not one bit more.

“I didn’t know Kayla, but I sense in every account of her life and ordeal, the true meaning of humility. ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls,’ the poet reveals. ‘It tolls for thee.’

“Kayla loved and was loved. And her spirit, her love, now echoes in the joy and laughter of children.

“What a fitting tribute.

“Thank you.”

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