Bye, George

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:40 am
By: Doug Lund
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 mcgovern close up

Actually, I never felt like I knew George McGovern well enough to call him by his first name. He probably wouldn’t have minded if I did but my respect and admiration for the man on so many levels would make such a familiar greeting akin to addressing the pope as Benny. 

I, like most everybody, was really surprised that the Senator had entered hospice. He’s had some health issues lately but he’s 90 for cryin’ out loud. Plus he was just at the State Theater dedication for another beloved nonagenarian, Sylvia Henkin , and seemed frail but fine. The point is, we’re going to see and hear a lot about McGovern’s life and times in the days to follow; all of the accolades well deserved, of course.

I can only offer a few personal observations from our long association as reporter/politician.

mcgovern demo conv.McGovern was the first person I ever voted for in a general election. It was his successful bid for re-election to the U.S. senate in 1968 after a short campaign for president that year picking up the reins of Robert Kennedy who’d been assassinated.
Like a lot of people back then, I didn’t think so much about left or right, liberal or conservative. I just admired McGovern’s intellect, the fact that he was a World War II hero; he was close to the Kennedys and applied a common sense approach to complicated issues. I was proud that he was a fellow South Dakotan and had a lot of respect among his political peers in Washington and around the world..
 I think a lot of the real George McGovern got lost in his 1972 presidential campaign. He listened to advice he maybe shouldn’t have like dumping Thomas Eagleton from the ticket after saying he wouldn’t.  It made him look indecisive. He also embraced endorsements from the liberal Hollywood crowd which doesn’t always bode well among voters.
Plus to appreciate George McGovern, you have to hear him speak at length on issues which very few people did on the night he accepted the presidential nomination at two o’clock in the morning after most of the country had gone to bed.
Norman Rockwell was a McGovern fan

Norman Rockwell was a McGovern fan

I was shocked in 1980 when one of the most eloquent speakers in the country, McGovern, lost to Jim Abdnor..a good man but whose communication skills and power of persuasion seemed very limited. But, as Tom Daschle will tell you, South Dakota voters will send you packing if there’s the slightest perception that you’ve got above your rais’n.

Shortly after that election, I remember driving back to KELO on South Phillips Avenue and spotted the senator walking along on the sidewalk all by himself..no entourage..no reporters..alone on a brisk Autumn afternoon with his head down slightly. He looked more contemplative than defeated; as if he was pondering the chapters of his life so far with its victories and disappointments, all the while planning a strategy for his next role in public service which, as we all know, has been exemplary..reflecting his inherent compassion, diligence and effective statesmanship especially in the fight against world hunger.
Thanks to my job, I’ve had lots of chances to interview George McGovern. Each time, I told him who I was and each time he’d say, “I know who you are, Doug” and then ask about my bosses and colleagues down at KELO. He was always gracious and always brilliant no matter if we were talking about his war experiences, his latest book, the death of his daughter to alcoholism, his bi-partisan mission with Senator Bob Dole to provide decent school lunches for kids around the world or even skydiving in his eighties.

During World War II, McGovern was a B-24 pilot and flew 35 missions over Europe and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for safely landing his damaged plane saving his crew.

During World War II, McGovern was a B-24 pilot and flew 35 missions over Europe and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for safely landing his damaged plane saving his crew.

 

McGovern skydiving on his 88th birthday

McGovern skydiving on his 88th birthday

 

His departure from this world will leave a huge void in the hearts of millions around the globe, including me, who’ve been helped or enlightened by the wisdom and influence of this gentle preacher’s kid from South Dakota.

15 Comments

  1. Carol S. says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Doug. He is one of the greatest human beings, on many levels, that I’ve ever known. It will be a sad, sad day when he is gone. I hope he knows how much he is loved and respected. He never lost sight of his beliefs and principles, despite all of his detractors.
    And he kept the common touch–as you said, unfailingly gracious and approachable.

  2. Cam Lind says:

    Doug: You are talented, but I don’t think you can do any better than this. Great, kind and thoughtful. CL

  3. Claude M. says:

    That was back when atleast a few political contenders had actual morals.
    Most running today make you sense you can’t trust them. Others are
    corrupt. Some see it as a easy way to make a buck -vs- a normal 9 to 5
    job like the rest of the world works. It could be a very long time before we ever see the likes of a George McGovern again. The country needs more men like that. ASAP.

  4. Donna Jensen says:

    Doug,
    Back when I was in high school Senator McGovern helped my parents financially. My dad was disabled, but the government wouldn’t recognize his disability. we struggled on my mom’s salary alone until a friend of his made the Senator aware of my mom’s situation. He not only got my mom the assistance that she requested, he got it retroactive for the past 4 years. (When the government 1st refused). My parents had no political clout or any standing in the Democratic Party. He did this to help a family out of a serious situation. He has always been a hero in our family’s eyes.

  5. Bill Overman says:

    Certainly a man of wonderful grace as was your article commending him.

  6. Sweeps says:

    Ditto to what the others have said. He ran for president the first year I was eligible to vote in a presidential election, and I remember taking my youngest brother and sister downtown to the election night party. If South Dakota were known for only one thing, I would certainly hope it would be for Senator McGovern and his common sense, compassionate approach. I’m very sad this week knowing he won’t be with us much longer. Thank you, Senator!

  7. Dan Doetzel says:

    Nice story, but the title is insensitive in my opinion. Making a play on words to the phrase “By George, I think he’s got it” is a little too cute. Why do journalists always feel they have to have some catchy title to their writings? He is not dead yet and you have already written him off, which maybe is a foregone conclusion but is disrespectful in my opinion. Show more dignity to a living person. Would you want someone to write an article about you that says “Bye” when you are still alive. I would have edited your title if I were your editor. It shouldn’t always be about garnering attention to get your words read.

  8. cindy says:

    Lighten up Dan… don’t read more into this than there is. This was a nice blog written about a well known person.

  9. Bruiser says:

    Dan, I think you are the insensitive one, this was no more than a compassionate and well written tribute to a man that Doug knew and admired. Why do some people have to ruin that just to get there own 2 cents worth in.

  10. Jon says:

    It’s really too bad he wasn’t a family man. Few people know how his family suffered because his political career had to come first. How sad.

  11. Jeni W. says:

    I had the privilege of hearing George give a presentation which included the thopic of his presidential campaign.

    He said that after the election he and Eleanor were returning home. At the airport, Sgt Schriver (who was on a different airplane, but had landed at the airport nearly at the same time that George’s flight plane landed.)

    Eleanor was in tears, and Sgt. Schriver came up behind them, put his arm around both of them and said “You lost in 49 states, but you still have your soul.” What a powerful and meaningful comment that was. The comment provided a different perspective as to what in the end really matters.

  12. Jeni W. says:

    Saying “Bye, George.” We all say “bye” in many different ways knowing that there is a real possibility that we, or someone we said “bye” could die before the next time our paths cross.

    Admittedly, I was taken back by the headline, then thought about it, and it was just a way of Doug saying “bye” before the paths crossed again.

    I had a friend who was receiving hospice care, her health declined to the point of it being a matter of a few short hours that she would be gone. In my own way, I said “bye” to a dear friend, but she had not died yet. I told her “bye” in my own way because I wanted to let her know that I love, cared about her, and with the promise that some day our paths will cross again. I am glad I did so, because whe died within the hours after I said “bye.”

  13. Charile Smith says:

    A statesman has passed. May the youth of today learn from his principles, and strive to be the statesmen of the future.

  14. Lisa Hirsch says:

    Doug… And yet another thoughtful and caring “farewell” to a South Dakota ICON.

  15. Michael says:

    “It’s really too bad he wasn’t a family man. Few people know how his family suffered because his political career had to come first. How sad”

    How truly pathetic to make a comment like that on a blog honoring McGovern. Do you make the same statement regarding John Thune and all the Republican senators? So they’re not family men, either, or is it just McGovern? Shame on you for that cruel comment and shame on you, too, Doug for not calling him out on it.

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