“If you had told this little kid who grew up in apartheid South Africa under white minority rule that he would one day sing for a revered United States senator in the Washington National Cathedral and be one of the very few people in the world to be invited into that room for that occasion, I would have told you that you were absolutely crazy.”
Roger Isaacs, Technical Proposal Writer at Cognosante and member of the Washington National Cathedral Choir, performed at the national memorial service of U.S. Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
“Singing at this funeral is a great honor for me,” stated Isaacs, a man who much like McCain, always strives to put others first. “McCain always put people and country before himself and his party,” Isaacs continued with admiration. “I couldn’t be happier to participate and lend my voice.”
An immigrant from Cape Town, South Africa, Isaacs provided background on his upbringing and how he got to be where he is today. “I have to thank my parents for always pushing me to defy odds,” said Isaacs. As a product of the disadvantaged communities, it was understood that only certain careers and professions were available to its sons and daughters. “My parents always encouraged my brother and I to dream bigger,” stated Isaacs. In his youth, Isaacs wished he could have pursued a career as a doctor, an opportunity that was simply unavailable to him under apartheid rule. Isaacs went on to pursue his passion of the arts and study music, another uncommon career path in the Cape Town community. When an opportunity to work for the South African Embassy in Washington, DC emerged, immediately following the first democratic election, Isaacs took it. He eventually fell in love with his adopted country, and through song was able to secure an Alien of Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A) visa and later became a U.S. citizen. Isaacs built a name for himself after performing with some of the country’s most prominent choral organizations and in prestigious venues like the White House, the Kennedy Center Opera House, and the Washington National Cathedral.
Isaacs went on to say how he is fortunate to have a “weekend” and “weekday” existence. He is employed by a company that supports his passion. While Roger never became a doctor, he feels fortunate to support Cognosante’s mission to transform the nation’s healthcare system, and in turn, help people.
Reflecting on the music performed during the McCain funeral, Isaacs shared that “America the Beautiful” and “Psalm 23” from John Rutter: Requiem were both perfectly fitting for the occasion. The setting itself played a starring role. “A Beacon on the Hill,” the Cathedral is an international house of prayer and exemplifies love. “There is no better location for collective mourning,” stated Issacs. When asked what message he would like to send to the McCain family, he said simply, “Thank you. Thank you for sharing this man with us.”