Yesterday, we learned of the passing of Bill McBride, the Democratic Party’s candidate against Jeb Bush in the 2002 gubernatorial election. As with the rest of the state, as well as those around the nation, we are saddened by the sudden death of, what I am hearing from many, a nice and thoughtful man.
In 2002 I wasn’t able to participate in Florida politics because I was living in Utah at the time. Still, I did keep a close eye on the 2002 elections because McBride had a strong possibility of knocking off Governor Jeb Bush. In the primary, I actually supported Daryl Jones. Still, Mr. McBride also had the vision to see a better Florida, just like his two Democratic primary opponents.
Now since his death, people are talking about the personal side of Mr. McBride. One thing that has been repeated regarding Mr. McBride is the friendliness that he possessed. Even when he was conducting a debate or giving a speech, the mild way in which Mr. McBride spoke gave you a sense of a person that truly cared about people. In that sense, he seems to have been a truly genuine person, something that we do not find in politics nowadays.
This morning I was looking at his profile online. Up until now I really didn’t know much about Mr. McBride. But looking at what he was and what he had done, it is easy to tell that he was a truly great person. Of course, we are hearing this from people around the state, but I feel a closer connection to Mr. McBride now that I have read up on him.
First, I see that Mr. McBride was born in Belleview, Illinois. Currently, I attend Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and know quite a few people from Belleview. All the people that I have met from Belleview during my time at SIUE are some of the most sincere people I have met, as well as some of the smartest. Therefore, I know where Mr. McBride gets not just his sense of compassion, but his smarts as well.
Looking further into Mr. McBride, I saw that he was a Marine in the Vietnam War. He was in Vietnam from 1968-1971 and received a Bronze Star. My father, as well, was a Marine in Vietnam during the same time. He was there from 1967-68 during the Tet Offensive and was stationed in both Đà Nẵng and Huế. The one thing about the Marines during the Vietnam War was that no matter what, if you signed up for the Marines, you were going to Vietnam, no questions asked. This wasn’t the Army, Navy or Air Force, where you could be stationed in DC or some naval station in the Pacific. If you were a Marine, you were “in the bush”, pure and simple. That is bravery.
Therefore, as someone that knows quite a bit about the Vietnam War, not just through my father but as the topic of my studies at the University of Utah, I understand the sacrifice that Mr. McBride made by being one of the young men going to Vietnam. But unlike many other Marines that went to Vietnam, Mr. McBride went there after he graduated from the University of Florida. He could have avoided the war, going the paths of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. But no. Instead there seemed to be a sense of being part of something that really mattered, and that was serving our nation. His service in Vietnam is greatly appreciated.
The reason I mention the Vietnam aspect of this is because I feel that many in politics today (especially, sadly, on the Democratic side) truly don’t realize the sacrifice that those who served in Vietnam and other wars make. Those that are political consultants look at military service as just something to strengthen a political resume. These people in politics fail to realize that it is much more than that. True, I have never served in the military myself (too overweight for the Navy), but knowing enough veterans, as well as extensively studying the Vietnam War, I understand what they go through. This is something that political consultants don’t understand, but maybe they should.
Of course, Mr. McBride went on to law school and eventually became one the top attorneys in both Florida as well as the nation for Holland & Knight. He expanded the law firm to become one of the largest in the nation. He also became a candidate for governor, as we know, and was defeated.
But the reason that I wrote this wasn’t because of the Bill McBride that I did know, which was mostly from political discussions and television appearances, but of the Bill McBride that I have read about after his passing. It might be hard for someone to realize how much of a sacrifice going to Vietnam was, especially after completing a degree at a university. This has given me a strong respect for Mr. McBride, and I would like to thank him for his service, to both our nation and to the State of Florida.
Rest in Peace Mr. McBride. Our thoughts also go out to his wife Alex Sink and their two children.