Interview with sen. Martha Mcsally on her new book, Dare to Fly

A version of this article was published at the Daily Caller.

The latest polls do not look very good for Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) who currently holds a key position for Republicans in Arizona. Polls continue to show that Sen. McSally is trailing behind her Democrat counterpart Mark Kelly at 37%. It has also been reported that Trump has told his advisers that he is worried about her chances of winning in the special election that will take place on November 3. 

“I am giving it all I got,” Sen. McSally said in an interview with the Daily Caller.

Sen. McSally’s new book, Dare to Fly, released at the end of last month, can bring a light of hope to what some outlets have opined is an unwinnable problem. In short, McSally is quite accustomed to blowing up closed doors and other such insurmountable obstacles when they stand in the way of her dreams and goals. 

For example, at the offset of her military career McSally was dealt with setbacks that derailed her dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Her arm was severely injured, she was too short to be a pilot, and she dreamt of a position that didn’t yet exist for women in the military. 

In Dare to Fly, McSally recounts her raw experiences such as overcoming rape, sexual assault, sexual harrassment, and the loss of family and friends, in order to teach readers how to convert their struggles into progress. She calls this system a “misery database.” 

“We all have that database of difficult things we have been through, sometimes people tap into it in order to hold themselves back. They dwell on the misery, they can’t sleep at night, it stops moving them forward. I created the term [misery database] and I talk about it in a way that strengthens you to propel you to be able to push through hard things and do amazing things because you’ve been through hard things before,” Sen. McSally said. 

Tragically, McSally’s database began its fill at an early age when her father died.  

It nearly broke her, she said, when “Losing my dad at 12, and being very angry at God — the only way a 12-year-old can process it [and then] being abused by my coach —  robbing, ROBBING me of my innocence while I was a hurting, vulnerable, fatherless kid”

“I have been to the depths of despair,” she said. “And was able to find the piece of God and the hope of God to help me someday to get out of bed in the morning.”  

Later, McSally endured vicious harassment in the military because of her gender. 

“I went through some difficult challenges of trying to show that women can be fighter pilots too and some of the denigration and the other things that I put up with, I had to learn as a young female officer how to have thick skin,” she said. 

The thick skin she developed in the military helped her to deal with the barrage of media attacks that are regularly wielded against her. 

“As awful as those experiences I had as a woman in the military, it actually really helped me to be able to focus on serving [and] not getting distracted by the [media] attacks. They’re unfair, they’re inflammatory; but life’s unfair. And you know you’re over the target when you’re getting flack, as we say as fighter pilots. So you know they’re attacking me for a reason, and I gotta stay on my mission. I gotta keep serving and keep fighting and do the best that I can,” she said. 

Behind the caricature that the media has presented, McSally is fundamentally driven to carry on her father’s legacy. 

On his deathbed, Bernard McSally said to his 12-year-old daughter, “Make me proud.” McSally promised that she would. 

That moment is the fire that keeps McSally energized to heal the world and to fight for the voiceless.

“In the darkest and most difficult times in my life, I often found my last ounce of strength to persevere while thinking about my dad and his request,” she writes in Dare to Fly

McSally’s father was a pious and humble man who gave charity anonymously. Similarly, McSally donated her salary in April simply because she had one and she knew others had lost theirs during the novel coronavirus pandemic. McSally’s father never dreamt of being a “big guy,” rather he just wanted to make a positive impact. He just wanted some people to be able to recognize that “he was there.” 

Parallel to her father’s goals, McSally said, “If today is my last day, my prayer and my hope would be that there are people on this planet who say Martha made a difference in my life. Sorry I’m getting a little bit choked up. That someone would say that I was here and I impacted them in a positive way that made a positive difference for them. Now, whether that’s the neighbor down the street that I’m just helping through a difficult time or whether it is legislation that I’m fighting for in the larger sense, or supporting or fighting for my constituents.” 

McSally’s desire to take office is correlated to her unwillingness to walk by a problem when she can be in the arena to make a change. 

She said, “If I am in a position to do something why would I pass it by if I could make a difference for others?” 

This trait was also exhibited when McSally encountered a photo of American woman serving in Saudi Arabia who was forced to wear the full Muslim garb, known as the abaya. 

“When I walked by that picture of that American-enlisted woman wearing the black gown and headscarf — it just gripped me. I could’ve just walked by it and said ‘this is not my problem’ but instead I took a look into it. And in the course of that journey, never would have imagined this at the time, it would have been an eight year battle, and I would eventually sue the secretary of defense, and eventually get a law passed as a citizen all by myself.”

At the time she raised the issue with the military, McSally was at the cusp of transforming into a fighter pilot. She knew that raising attention to herself was likely to injure her career. 

“You gotta look at that moment in time for me. I’m just trying to show that I can fly the jet, I can shoot the gun, be one of the guys, the last thing I ever wanted to be was to raise some ‘excuse me this is how women are being mistreated,” she said. 

Ultimately, McSally said the story of Esther inspired her to take action. It was a line that read, “can it be that you were put in this position for such a time as this.” 

McSally explained, “Could it be that I was given this opportunity to become a fighter pilot not just to achieve my dreams, but to be in a position to be the voice for these women who don’t have a voice? So I felt propelled, but I was really nervous. I mean I just knew it wasn’t going to go over well. I knew there was going to be a lot of people that were going to be upset.” 

McSally has a trove of accomplishments. Yet, humility that she acquired from her father stands out among them. The graduate of Harvard Kennedy Graduate School, doesn’t mention the Ivy League school she went to in Dare to Fly nor does she mention it when discussing academics during the interview. Also, she did not introduce herself with her prestigious title of senator during the interview with the Daily Caller. She just said, “Hey, it’s Martha McSally.” 

“I’m the same person! I’m just serving in civilian clothes,” she said. 

Politics is not her favorite cup of tea and McSally describes it as one of the most frustrating things she has taken on. 

“I can’t stand the politics, actually. But I have to put up with the politics in order to serve and make a difference,” she said. 

In the upcoming special elections we will see how McSally wrestles with the current disparity at the polls.

“My hope is that the people of Arizona can see my heart,” she said. 

If McSally handles this election cycle anything like the way she did when she smashed her head during an Ironman triathlon, as blood dripped down her face with determination on her mind to finish what she started or the way she handled hiking with a broken kneecap on the highest mountain in Africa, we can surmise that McSally won’t be put off course of her senatorial bid that easily. 

Senator, you’re cleared to fly!