A former campaign worker for George McGovern had a chance to say, 'Thank you,' to him for his years of public service during a book signing this spring. This Sioux Falls woman gets emotional when she reflects upon McGovern's commitment to causes that included his opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to feed the hungry. McGovern still inspires his rank-and-file supporters more a generation later.
Evelyn Griesse volunteered for McGovern's 1968 Senate re-election campaign as well as his unsuccessful 1972 bid for president. She, like many other McGovern volunteers, immersed herself in the blizzard of political pamphlets and fliers, firmly committed to the cause and the candidate.
Griesse describes her volunteer duties with the McGovern campaigns as "grunt work."
"Stuffing, stamping, sealing, sorting the envelopes and the fliers, all the mailers that go out. And it was just a great camaraderie," Griesse said.
A camaraderie among like-minded volunteers rooted in a firm belief in the candidate himself.
"He's my hero," Griesse said.
Four decades after her introduction to grassroots politics, Griesse caught up with her hero at a Sioux Falls signing of McGovern's book, "What It Means to Be A Democrat."
"It was just to be in his presence and hear what he had to say," Griesse said.
Griesse, grateful for McGovern's political integrity and honesty, uttered two simple words to the author that day.
"'Thank you.' That's all I could say to him," Griesse said.
Griesse didn't bring her copy of George McGovern's book with her to that signing so she never got him to sign the book for her. But she says an autograph wasn't what was important at the time.
"It was more just his spirit that has stayed with me," Griesse said.
A boundless spirit within a humble South Dakotan whose words and actions brought out the best in others.
"It always surprises me when I would see him that's he's such a small frame, not a giant person. But his personality and his core is so huge," Griesse said.
Griesse's opposition to the Vietnam War was personal. She had a brother who was serving in Vietnam while she worked for the McGovern campaign.
Take a look back on the late senator's life on the Rembering Sen. McGovern page on KELOLAND.com.