George McGovern: Teacher, politician, writer and much more
George McGovern leaves a legacy far bigger than South Dakota's 77,000 square miles. He was a presidential candidate, a 3 term U.S. Senator, a historian, and a humanitarian. But, if you asked him what his profession was he would proudly say, "I'm a history professor."
"So I think of myself as a teacher, but I don't back away from the fact that I'm also a politician. I'm very proud of that. I'm proud that I went all the way to the nomination of my party to the presidency. Of course, I regret not winning," McGovern said.
Avon, South Dakota produced the state's most iconic politician. George McGovern knew that politics needed to teach people. He was always teaching and hoping people would better understand why war wasn't a suitable option.
"Within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and back in America where they belong," McGovern said during a rally in 1972.
Time and time again he stood at podium after podium, telling us how we can help feed the world.
"We can bring every school-aged kid in the world into the classroom and provide a good nutritious lunch to each of them," McGovern said.
While helping end the Vietnam War and becoming the first Director of Food for Peace are his global legacies, McGovern was always thinking about his home state first.
"I think that I helped put South Dakota on the national map. When I won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, obviously, it brought a lot of national publicity to this state. I brought several presidents to this state. They came out to campaign for me at various times. I've even had some prominent Republicans that came out here to campaign for me," McGovern said.
And as the years passed, McGovern kept going.
"I'm 83 and I'd like to get to 100, not simply to say I'm 100, but I think it will take another 16 or 17 years to get done what I really want to finish up," McGovern told KSFY News seven years ago.
McGovern also kept going by advocating for improved health care and more jobs.
"I want a one sentence bill: Congress hereby extends Medicare to every citizen," McGovern said. "We're in a serious depression and have been for the last four, five years. I'd like to see a strong position taken against unemployment. I don't think we ought to have millions of people sitting on the side lines doing nothing."
Professionally, McGovern refused to give up. Personally, he mourned the death of two of his children and his beloved wife, Eleanor.
"The only sadness is the loss of Eleanor. It's tough and I don't have an answer to that," McGovern said.
Even in his darkest times, he kept putting one foot in front of the next.
"I still spend ten times as much energy looking ahead as opposed to looking back," McGovern said.
Being constantly surrounded by people who admired him helps—which his 90th birthday party this summer is the perfect example.
"To see this room jammed as it was a moment ago is a thrill to me. I confess to that. I love to see people and I love to see that so many of them are interested in being close to me because I'm interested in being close to them," McGovern said this summer at his 90th birthday celebration.
McGovern had much to celebrate. In 90 years, McGovern taught us a lot, most notably what a teacher turned politician can do for a country.
"I think politics is the noblest profession. It's the place where you can do the most harm or the most good."