Mary Curtis: Saying Goodbye to Political and Cultural Icons

final farewells to two icons who affected our culture and politics


Though at first glance they might not seem to have much in common, the legacies of John McCain and Aretha Franklin intersect in some surprising ways. This week, the world and their own communities offer final farewells to two icons who affected our culture and politics. (Mary Curtis)

WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis weighs in:

–Rolling Stone, as well as her many fans and musical admirers, place Aretha Franklin at the top of the list of all-time vocalists. And many of them lined up early to pay their respects to the woman who made “RESPECT” part of our lives. They came to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in “her” Detroit, before her funeral this week at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple, after a viewing for the members of the New Bethel Baptist Church, founded by Franklin’s father and a tribute concert.

It was a fitting setting, as her music was also a soundtrack to the civil rights movement, and she was known to give her support through concerts and money. She represented so much that transcended music. (The funeral home that handled the arrangements said she often paid for funerals to those in need.)

She sang at Martin Luther King’s funeral and at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, with style, in an iconic “church” hat. She is a part of history.

–John McCain would have been a public figure even if he had not gone into politics because of his war record and courage. He has been honored by those on all sides of the partisan political battles of today because of his integrity. He was the first to admit he was flawed, and to apologize when he was wrong, such as when he said his original stand on the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse was a political one he regretted.

He worked with fellow Vietnam veteran John Kerry, with whom he clashed on the meaning and rightness of the war, on normalizing relations with that country; people in Vietnam, with tokens left at a war memorial and signatures in a condolence book at the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, remembered him.

And two former political opponents, former President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, will offer tributes at his memorial service before his burial at the U.S. Naval Academy.

–Why the outpouring for these two figures? We don’t need those we admire to be perfect, we like to think they stood for something, and used their talents and actions to make a difference.

Both Aretha Franklin and John McCain did that – and we see far too few folks who can fit the bill.