Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) received the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal on Monday in Philadelphia for his lifetime of service to the country. However, he also used the occasion to criticize all those politicians supporting “half-baked, spurious nationalism." 

During his speech, without referring to President Donald Trump or his team by name, McCain warned it would be unhealthy for the nation to move back toward nationalistic "America First" instincts as endorsed by the current administration. And if this rhetoric is continued to take root, it could relegate the U.S. to a backseat on the world stage, he said, CNN reported.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain said.

"We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to." 

McCain was presented with the medal by former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, who is the chair of the Constitution Center. The Republican Senator also spoke about bipartisanship, which was a normal part of politics and even he practiced it. Speaking about himself and Biden, McCain said they would "often argue — sometimes passionately." However, both "believed in each other's patriotism and sincerity of each other's convictions." 

McCain, who was born at the Coco Solo Naval Station in Panama on Aug. 29, 1936, is the son of a former U.S. Navy admiral, John S. McCain Jr. He enrolled in the Naval Academy and when the Vietnam War started, McCain volunteered for combat duty. He started flying carrier-based attack planes on low-altitude bombing runs against the North Vietnamese.  

During one of his air missions on Oct. 26, 1967, McCain's plane was shot down during a bombing run over the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Both his arms and one leg were broken during the tragic crash and he was shifted to a prison named Hoa Loa on Dec. 9, 1969.

When his captors got to know that McCain was the son of a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Navy, they also offered to release him early, but he refused. McCain did not want to violate the military code of conduct and he also knew that his release could have been used by the North Vietnamese as a powerful piece of propaganda against the U.S.

McCain ended up spending five-and-a-half years in various prison camps out of which he was given solitary confinement for three-and-a-half years. During his time in prisons, he was subjected to repeated beatings and torture. On March 14, 1973, he was finally released along with other American Prisoner of Wars.

He earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.