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McCain's 'Unruly Passions'

Sen. John McCain, left, waves as he arrives at at his alma mater, Episcopal High School, in Alexandria, Va., today, accompanied by headmaster Rob Hershey. (AP.)

By Michael D. Shear
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Sen. John McCain today declared that he had once been "captive to the unruly passions of youth" as he recalled his "usual immature ways" while attending Episcopal High School.

He even joked about his current reputation for having a temper, saying that "I believe if my detractors had known me here on the Hill they might marvel at the self-restraint and mellowness that I have developed as an adult. Or perhaps they wouldn't quite see it that way."

The trip down memory lane for the Republican presidential nominee was part of his week-long "biographical tour" aimed at making sure that voters know the story of his life before the political mudslinging begins later this year.

In Day Two of the tour, McCain spoke longingly of his time at the Alexandria school, paying homage to an English teacher who he said enriched his life "beyond measure." The teacher, William B. Ravenel, had served in WWII and was McCain's football coach and the head of the English department.

"He was simply the best man at the school -- one of the best men I have ever known," McCain told the small crowd.

McCain used the high school venue, and the discussion of Ravenel, to discuss the need for school choice, merit pay for teachers and a renewed focus on standards in education. He said flatly that government should be "concerned" with the fate of students who do not have access to quality education.

"We have let fear of uncertainty, and a view that education's primary purpose is to protect jobs for teachers and administrators degrade our sense of the possible in America. There is no excuse for it," McCain said.

On his youthful indiscretions, McCain told reporters on the plane Monday that he would advise today's youth against following his lead.

"I recommend against it strongly," he said. "It makes for colorful stories, but you pass up opportunities for learning and maturity."

Asked whether he didn't turn out just fine despite what he calls his "exploits," McCain admitted enjoying his youth. "I enjoyed a lot of it. But I don't think I took advantage of a lot of the opportunities I had."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 1, 2008; 1:21 PM ET
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