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October 26, 2012 10:20 PM

The Life And Legacy Of George McGovern

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"May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.  And now is the time to meet that challenge," Senator George McGovern said at the Democratic National Convention in 1972.

A political powerhouse for many years, McGovern always had something to say. And according to his friend former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, you could hear him loud and clear, but it was not necessarily because of what he spoke; it was because of how he lived.

"Preach the gospel every day. If necessary, use words," Daschle said. "I've never known anybody who preached the gospel so affectively in so many ways than George."

From politicians to family and to people who only met him briefly, McGovern gave everyone something to talk about. At the prayer service, Vice President Joe Biden focused on McGovern's stance against the Vietnam War.

"What people don't realize, had your father not been there, had your father not been in the Senate, so much more blood, so much more treasure would have been wasted," Biden said.  "The war would have never ended when it did. It wouldn't have ended how it did. Your father gave courage to people who didn't have the courage to stand up or speak up. Your father stood there and took all that beating. Your father who was called a coward was a genuine hero."

It was not just politicians and the makings of inner circles who knew McGovern.  Even the people who met him a few times or even once said it was enough to impact their lives. With just a simple handshake, he made people feel like they mattered.

"We lost a good friend who worked hard for us. When we had problems on the farm, you could call the office and he'd get back to you.  Nowadays, we don't have luck when we call for help.  Nobody returns our calls," Pam Hofer said at McGovern's public viewing.

Through song, laughter, tears and stories, McGovern was remembered as a man who loved to drive fast and someone unafraid to leap out of an airplane on his 88th birthday.  Those are the stories many of us knew about.  However, he was also a devout St. Louis Cardinals fan.

"It was a great privilege to talk baseball with George. He was a great fan and I guess we were real fans of his, too," Jim Rowen, his son-in-law, said.

He was praised as a voice for the voiceless and a champion for the hungry.

"There's a little girl in Malawi who has never heard the name George McGovern. Who has enough to eat and an education.  There's a young man in California or Kenya committed to peace and justice. It is up to us to carry on that legacy forward.  We love you senator," Jim McGovern, a former aide to George McGovern said.

McGovern made a run for the White House.  Though he lost to Richard Nixon, Daschle said you cannot call it a failed attempt. A longtime and storied politician, McGovern was the first democrat in decades to be elected to congress and then the U.S. Senate. Daschle says it's the reason he is in politics.

"Growing up in South Dakota, the idea of getting elected as a democrat seemed as likely as martians landing in your back yard," Daschle said.

He somehow managed to take the politics out of being a politician. His friends said he was calm, decent and treated everyone as an equal.

"What he taught me more than anything else was that you always speak your mind. More politicians on both sides of the aisle should," Political Strategist Steve Hildebrand said at the prayer service.

Daschle said today's politicians could take a lesson.

"The fact you can express your convictions deeply without ranting.  You can disagree without being disagreeable.  He told me the cynics were wrong and politics can be an honorable profession," Daschle said.

Everyone has had something to say about the life of George McGovern.  But, when looking back on his own life during an interview with KELOLAND News in January 2012, he chose the perfect words about how he always lived.

"Activity has been the story of my life.  And I'm finding it interesting even yet," McGovern said.

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