McCain the 'Punk' Goes Back to School

John McCain is a punk. At least that's what the editors of his high school yearbook thought.

"It was a fateful three years ago that the "Punk" first crossed the threshold of the High School," wrote the editors of the red-leather edition of "The Whispers," a glossy yearbook chronicling the achievements of the 1954 class of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.

"His magnetic personality has won for him many life-long friends," the yearbook continued, "but, as magnets must also repel, some have found him hard to get along with."

More than 50 years later, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned triumphantly to Episcopal, a little less "punk" and a lot more "most likely to succeed."

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The Original 'McNasty'

McCain traveled back to the private school's campus Tuesday, the second stop on a week-long biography tour intended to reintroduce the senator to the American public.

"I'm happy to be back at Episcopal, my alma mater, which I have many happy memories of, and a few that I'm sure former teachers, school administrators and I would rather forget," McCain, who in addition to "Punk" was known as "McNasty" during his high school years.

The senator, oldest son of John Sidney McCain Jr., a four-star Navy admiral and commander of Pacific naval forces in Vietnam, conceded, "Until I enrolled at Episcopal, my education had been constantly disrupted by the demands of my father's naval career, which required us to move so often that I lost track of the number of schools I attended."

McCain arrived at Episcopal, a sprawling, private preparatory institution in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in 1952.

On the Episcopal Web site, the High School, as it is known by students and alumni, describes EHS in the 1950s as an all-boys school with 240 students 22 faculty members and "annual tuition was $1,400."

"I arrived [at Episcopal] a pretty rambunctious boy, with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," McCain, now the presumed Republican nominee for president said Tuesday. "I was always the new kid, and was accustomed to proving myself quickly at each new school as someone not to be challenged lightly."

Indeed, McCain won none of the honors that might be expected of a future presidential contender.

The 1954 class did not see fit to distinguish "McNasty" in any notable category -- Brightest, Lady-Killer, Chummiest, Polite, Funniest, Popular, Admired, Likely to Succeed, Bull Slinger, Intellectual, Ambitious, or even, and perhaps to the surprise of many journalists or his competitors, Publicity Hound.

Instead, he took only second place in the category of "Thinks He's Hardest," presumably a knock on his tough-guy character.

"As a young man," McCain admitted last Thursday, "I would respond aggressively and sometimes irresponsibly to anyone whom I perceived to have questioned my sense of honor and self-respect. Those responses often got me in a fair amount of trouble earlier in life."

The Arizona senator acknowledged that some habits die hard -- even if it's been 50 years.

"In all candor, as an adult I've been known to forget occasionally the discretion expected of a person of my years and station when I believe I've been accorded a lack of respect I did not deserve," McCain said.

"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. Or perhaps they wouldn't quite see it that way," he joked.

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