For his military service and as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973, John McCain will always be viewed by Americans as heroic. Yet one quality will stand out in the history books because it was the moral force that helped heal a rupture between two nations, Vietnam and the US, in the late 20th century. Despite the years of torture he suffered as a prisoner of war in a Hanoi jail, McCain decided not to be bound by bitterness but to forgive. In 1995, McCain’s magnanimity towards a then unified Vietnam provided the political cover in the US Congress for president Bill Clinton – who had avoided serving in the war – to establish diplomatic relations with Hanoi. McCain’s forgiveness was an invitation to a different future between former adversaries. "My job has been reconciliation and healing," he told CNN in 1999. His embrace of Vietnam may not have been widely noticed at the time because the world was newly inspired by a similar use of forgiveness in public reconciliation. Just a few ye...

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