By Vice President Kristin Aschenbrenner
Today, I woke up to the news that Senator McGovern had passed. Just two years ago, Senator McGovern went skydiving for his 88th birthday. In 2010, he campaigned around the state for Democratic candidates and he frequently spoke at and attended events in South Datoka even in the last years of his life. It is hard to imagine we have lost that funny, passionate, and inspiring man.
So many of the news articles mention his historic loss in the presidential race to Nixon. But Senator McGovern’s legacy is far greater than that. He was an early grassroots organizer keeping shoeboxes full of information on voters in South Dakota. He knew work began on the ground and he built a phenomenal network in South Dakota as executive secretary of the SDDP. Those lessons were not lost, and influenced an entire generation of politicians, including Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton who worked on his campaign.
McGovern was also a man ahead of his time in his passionate opposition to not only the Vietnam War but the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as well. He continued on as a standard bearer for liberal causes. During the healthcare debate, I remember him saying, “I have a solution- Medicaid for all.” He always fought for what he believed in, not simply what was politically expedient. And in doing so, he has inspired so many of us to fight for what is right. His beautiful words at his convention speech exemplify his philosophy: "We reject the view of those who say, 'America, love it or leave it.' We reply, 'Let us change it so we love it more.' "
Throughout his life, McGovern was an advocate to end hunger. During his time in the House and the Senate, he chaired the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. He was appointed by Kennedy as the first director for Food for Peace, helped set up the World Food Programme, served as ambassador to the UN Food Agencies and won both the World Food Prize (for his work with Bob Dole on school feeding programs) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It is a true testament to the man he was that Democrats and Republicans alike mourn his passing.