Remembering, Appreciating George McGovern

Yahoo Contributor Network
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 1971 file photo, U.S. Sen. George McGovern makes a speech at the University of the Pacific at Stockton, Calif. A family spokesman says, McGovern, the Democrat who lost to President Richard Nixon in 1972 in a historic landslide, has died at the age of 90. According to a spokesman,  McGovern died Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 at a hospice in Sioux Falls, surrounded by family and friends.  (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski, File)
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FILE - In this Jan. 25, 1971 file photo, U.S. Sen. George McGovern makes a speech at the University of the Pacific at Stockton, Calif. A family spokesman says, McGovern, the Democrat who lost to President Richard Nixon in 1972 in a historic landslide, has died at the age of 90. According to a spokesman, McGovern died Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 at a hospice in Sioux Falls, surrounded by family and friends. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski, File)

On Sunday, Yahoo News asked Americans for their memories and appreciations of George McGovern, the former presidential candidate and anti-war advocate, who died Sunday at 90. Here are excerpts from submissions we received.

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I was an idealistic college student who had just declared a major in political science that fall of 1972. I went to a McGovern for President rally on a vacant lot in Baltimore to hear him speak about social justice and putting an end to the (undeclared) war in Vietnam.

I can hear his voice in my head 40 years later -- that mild-mannered, decent, middle-American voice with its slight quaver. Those of us who shared his point of view loved him, but we knew that he was too far left of the mainstream and not a sufficiently compelling presence on the stump to actually win.

Nonetheless, it was shocking and sad when he carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia on Election Day. I will always remember him as a very intelligent, decent man with his heart in the right place.

-- Nancy Miller

***

I was nine-months pregnant, living in Youngstown, Ohio, during the peak of the steel industry. My husband was a steelworker and persuaded me to volunteer with him for the George McGovern presidential campaign. I liked that McGovern opposed the Vietnam War even when the position was not popular.

As I answered phones at the local headquarters and helped in the office, the excitement of the campaign became contagious. I really like this candidate and was devastated when he lost the election by such a huge gap. He only won one state, so it was really a disaster.

The experience, though, did not dampen my enthusiasm for politics. I owe George McGovern a thank-you for the opportunity and lessons learned.

-- Margie Miklas

***

In 1972, I was drafted and headed for boot camp, despite my complete incomprehension of the reasons we were fighting in Vietnam. I should have been on my way to college with my friends, who were protesting against the war. George McGovern was a figure of hope who seemed to offer an alternative to the vast, corrupt tyranny represented by Richard Nixon. Ever since JFK was assassinated, our country had been ruled by imperialistic war-mongers and powerful elitists who sent our troops to die in pursuit of their questionable goals.

McGovern was a central figure in the partial recovery of our American spirit.

-- Michael Taylor

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The thing I remember most about George McGovern is his steadfast attack on the Vietnam conflict. Although he failed in his attempt to become the president of the United States, he set the stage for immediate action on the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. The conflict had become the No. 1 issue in the election that year. People wanted it to come to an end. President Nixon was more or less forced to begin action on the withdrawal of troops.

-- Bill Hanks

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Reinforcing and justifying my loyalty, McGovern perpetuated his human rights efforts until recent years. Americans would eventually regret their selection of Richard Nixon due to Watergate and other indiscretions. Perhaps they should have listened to me in 1972 when I told everyone around me that George McGovern was the candidate to represent American ideals.

-- CS Butts

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I'm not a spoil-sport, but I had a bumper sticker that read, "Don't blame me, I voted for McGovern." Occasionally, someone honked and waved or, rarely, give a different hand signal. In the gracious spirit of George McGovern, I did not return that gesture.

McGovern taught me that you may hold a minority view, but your voice matters and it's especially important to raise it for those who cannot speak for themselves. He was a beacon of reason in a Watergate world, and we are better for having heard him. 

-- Elaine L. Orr

***

I was 21 in 1972, looking forward to a presidential election. The candidates were winnowed, and I caught some speeches and hype. I knew McGovern was from a flat, wheat, prairie state, like Eisenhower. By the few speeches I heard him enunciate, I found him meek, honest and soft-spoken. The media was not kind to him, because he was a lamb, not electable to the Oval Office. I voted for Nixon, not for the war, but for power, for the man who nearly beat Kennedy. I liked McGovern, I liked that he was against the War in Vietnam, I just lacked faith in him -- he would not survive the slaughter. 

-- Dean D. Richards III




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