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McCain shares memories of his high school days

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Sen. John McCain admits to being a "rambunctious" teen
  • NEW: McCain says American people want someone who gets angry at times
  • McCain returns to his high school to tell story of his mentor, an English teacher
  • McCain is on a tour of places that have played a key role in shaping his views
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(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain tried to connect with voters on a personal level Tuesday by visiting his high school and sharing memories of what he called some of his happiest years.

Sen. John McCain's Service to America tour took him to Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee reflected upon his friendship with William Ravenel, an English teacher who McCain says enriched his life "beyond measure."

McCain is on the second day of his Service to America tour, a multistate bus journey of places that he says played a key role in shaping his views and values.

Speaking from his alma mater in Alexandria, Virginia, McCain recalled his first days at Episcopal High School.

"I arrived here a pretty rambunctious boy with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," he told a room of students and supporters. Video Watch McCain reflect on his high school days »

McCain said he was always the new kid. With his father's naval career, his family had to relocate frequently, he said. His parents enrolled him and his siblings in boarding school to put an end to their "haphazard education."

Explaining that first-year students at the school were known as rats, McCain said he had piled up enough demerits to earn the distinction of being the "worst rat" by the year's end.

The senator from Arizona said his relationship with his mentor helped him mature into a young man who appreciated the school and valued its honor code.

"As luck would have it, I was ordered to work off my demerits in Mr. Ravenel's yard," McCain said.

McCain recalled the variety of subjects he and his mentor discussed, from sports to literature to combat.

"I doubt I will ever meet another person who had the impact on my life that my English teacher at Episcopal High School did," McCain said. "All children should have a teacher like I had, who they remember when they have children and grandchildren as one of the most fortunate relationships in their lives."

McCain said he's never forgotten the confidence that Ravenel's praise and trust gave him.

"Self-improvement should be a work in progress all our lives, and I confess to needing it as much as anyone. But I believe, if my detractors had known me at Episcopal, they might marvel at the self-restraint and mellowness I developed as an adult," McCain said.

In an interview earlier Tuesday with CNN, McCain addressed concerns raised about his temper, a constant theme he discusses on the campaign trail and has written about in his books. Video Watch what McCain says about his temper »

McCain said he's had to demonstrate an even temper to work across the aisle and hold leadership positions, but he added that Americans want someone who gets angry at times.

"If they don't expect me to get angry when I see corruption in Washington, when I see wasting needlessly of their tax dollars, when I see people behaving badly -- they expect me to get angry, and I will get angry, because I won't stand for corruption," he said shortly before his speech at the high school.

McCain kicked off his "biography tour" Monday in Meridian, Mississippi, focusing on his family history and roots in the military. Video Watch McCain's personal approach »

Later this week, McCain will head to Annapolis, Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy.

He also has stops scheduled in Pensacola and Jacksonville, Florida, where he trained and was based before Vietnam. McCain returned to Jacksonville after being held as a prisoner of war for five years.

McCain's tour will wrap up in Prescott, Arizona, where he lives.

McCain, who became his party's presumptive nominee after the March 4 primaries, is trying to portray himself as the most attractive option for voters in the November election.


McCain, 71, has been focusing on his memories and experiences on the tour. When asked about concerns regarding his age, he said his past and values are "a prelude for the future."

"If you have experience and knowledge and background and judgment and vision for the future -- that's ... the factor that will decide whether [the American people] support me or not," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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