Former U.S. Senator John McCain and the American Field Service, more commonly known as the AFS group, were honored during the 2019 Truman Awards ceremony this past Saturday.
Doug McCain accepted the Truman Public Service award on behalf of his late father, and Cheryl Coffman, district representative for the Independence chapter of AFS, accepted the Special Recognition award on behalf of the organization.
Zach Walker, Independence city manager, described the event as a “unique gift” being able to recognize public servants over the years, before introducing Coffman for the award.
AFS focuses on connecting exchange students with local families, encouraging the students and their hosts to learn from each other and foster a spirit of international understanding.
“For 60 years, AFS has helped connect cultures around the world with our community here in Independence,” he said, adding “this program allows us to show the best parts of our community with the students that will one day become the adults leading their communities and countries around the world.”
Coffman accepted the award, thanking the individuals who have helped the program grow over the years, and the families who have hosted international students.
“We have a record of 423 Independence families sharing their homes. They have come from 58 countries in the past 60 years,” she said. “Hopefully we have had the opportunity to share these students in some of your organizations, giving your group a better understanding of a group that may not have heard of or not known much about.
Coffman reminded those present that AFS is still looking for host families for the upcoming year, and the ideal family is considered one that is both busy and loving.
State Senator John Rizzo introduced McCain, speaking of his father’s commitment to public service, focusing on “country before self” before passing away.
“Less than one year ago … our nation lost one of it’s true statesmen with the passing of Senator John Sidney McCain III,” Rizzo said. “Prior to his passing, Senator McCain led a life of unwavering service.”
Rizzo said one of the unofficial mottos of the United States Navy is “not for self, but for country,” and said John McCain exemplified this thought.
“That is the story of John Sidney McCain III,” he added.
Doug McCain accepted the award, a small statue of Harry S. Truman, on behalf of his father.
“I am extremely proud to accept this award on my father’s behalf,” he said. “As the 45th recipient of this award, it is wonderful to know that my father joins the company of awardees that includes past presidents, United States senators and most importantly the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.”
McCain said that even though his father and President Truman ran on different sides of the political aisle, they shared several traits, such as the need to put their country ahead of their own self interests and “a decent sense of humor.”