Monday, August 10, 2009

Cindy McCain: A Woman with Heart

Cindy McCain: A Woman with Heart
During the 2008 Presidential election, Cindy McCain captured our attention as Senator John McCain's wife and the nation's potential First Lady. Throughout the campaign, she stood strong as democrats and the media attacked both her and her family with rumors and accusations that proved never to be true. Unfortunately, few got to know Cindy McCain the philanthropist and woman with a big heart.

Cindy Lou Hensley McCain was born in Phoenix, Arizona to beer distributor James Hensley and his wife, Marguerite. She attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education in 1976 and receiving her Master of Arts in Special Education in 1978. Despite being offered a role in her father's business, she went on to work as a special education teacher at a high school in Arizona. She met John McCain in 1979 and the two were married in 1980. In 1982, McCain began his political career with his wife at his side giving her full support. The couple has four children: Meghan, John IV, James, and Bridget.

Between time spent supporting her husband's political career, raising her children and fulfilling her duties as chair of her late father's company, McCain has worked tirelessly helping needy children and working to improve health care and other issues around the world through a number of charitable organizations, including one she founded herself, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT). The organization, which planned trips for medical professionals to disaster-plagued parts of the world, allowed McCain to lead 55 missions throughout the course of seven years. Trips were taken to places such as Kuwait after the conclusion of the Gulf War, Zaire to help refugees from Rawanda, and many other nations including Nicaragua, India, El Salvador, and Iraq.

In 1991, during a trip to Bangladesh, following the 1991 cyclone, McCain and the AVMT were at Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa Children's Home when she spotted two baby girls who were in desperate need of medical attention. McCain felt the two girls would benefit from being brought to the United States and they did, in more ways than one. John and Cindy McCain adopted one of the girls (their daughter Bridget) and helped a family friend adopt the other.

In 2001, McCain became involved with Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that provides cleft lip and palate repair to children all over the world. She has traveled to Morocco, Vietnam, and India with the organization and currently serves on the board of directors. She also serves on the board of directors of CARE, one of the largest international humanitarian organizations in the world, and HALO Trust, a nonprofit organization that removes debris left by war, such as landmines. With HALO Trust, McCain has visited Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and Angola.

Friends of the very private McCain say that despite her wealth and privileged upbringing, working with these organizations is where she is most comfortable and she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. They call it her "defining characteristic," despite how she is often portrayed in the media. In 2008, Vonnie Wray, the development director at Operation Smile told the Arizona Republic that McCain is "low maintenance" and insists, "the thing that differentiates Cindy and why I think she will make an excellent first lady is that she has this true connection with the underserved." Though Cindy McCain never made it to the White House, she is certainly making her mark on the world and its people.

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