As the remarkable life of Senator George McGovern nears its end, I want to add my voice to those remembering his legacy.
Most will remember Senator McGovern for his 1972 campaign against Richard Nixon, his opposition to the Vietnam War, and his pride in being a liberal. Most of the commenters here so far have stated their pride in casting their first presidential vote for him and going out campaigning for him. While this was undoubtedly his biggest impact on American life, others can tell that part of his story better.
I'd like to focus on the World War II hero who flew bomber missions over Europe and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. I'd also like to add that even when he was being called every kind of weak during the '72 race, he never brought up this heroism because he felt it wasn't something to brag about.
I'd like to focus on the dedicated public servant who served South Dakota and the United States so well for four years in the House and 18 years in the Senate. I'd like to tell you about the man who fought on the behalf of farmers, those who sought peace, and those who were going hungry.
I'd like to focus on the reformer who helped to change the rules used in nominating presidential candidates. I'd like to laud the man who gave more power to nominate delegates to the Democratic National Convention to the people in each state, who ensured that more women and young people and minorities would be represented in that group, and who helped give rise to the use of primaries instead of state conventions.
I'd like to focus on the good man who spent decades working to reduce hunger in this country and around the world. I'd like to mention his work at the United Nations and his partnership with Senator Bob Dole to promote expansion of school lunch programs and food stamps; I'd also like to add that the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Nutrition Program has provided over 22 million meals to children in 41 countries around the world. (link) For all of these efforts, Senator McGovern was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.
Finally, I'd like to focus on the kind man who lived across the street from Dakota Wesleyan University, the place he graduated from, taught at, and gave so much to over the years. He would frequently stop and talk to students as he walked his dog through campus or went to and from his office in the library named after him and his beloved wife Eleanor. I was fortunate enough to talk with him a few times, never for too long and never about anything too profound, but those are treasured moments in my life. He is one of the nicest, most decent men I have ever met.
There is so much more that can, and I hope will, be said in the coming days. Please, use the comments to share your memories and stories about Senator McGovern. Feel free to add in the many aspects of his life and legacy that haven't been covered here.
Before you do, though, I want to direct you to Feeding South Dakota, where McGovern's family has encouraged donations for anyone wishing to honor him.