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McGovern Remembers Shriver

January 19, 2011, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

McGovern Remembers Shriver
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL - While most of the nation mourns Sargent Shriver as the founder of the Peace Corps, South Dakota's George McGovern remembers Shriver as a dear friend and former running mate. Shriver died Tuesday of Alzheimer's at the age of 95.

In the summer of 1972, McGovern's presidential campaign was engaged in some serious damage control after his running mate, Thomas Eagleton, revealed he had been hospitalized years earlier for depression. McGovern replaced Eagleton with Sargent Shriver, who had been a leading figure in the war on poverty in the 1960s, as well as an in-law to the politically-connected Kennedy family. McGovern credits Shriver's enthusiasm for re-energizing a campaign that few thought could make much headway against President Nixon's bid for re-election.

McGovern says Shriver never doubted that the Democratic ticket could win the White House in 1972, despite the long odds of unseating incumbent Richard Nixon.

"He insisted on that.  He said, 'We've got to do the best we can,' and I agreed, I felt that Nixon was vulnerable if we could just get our message across," McGovern said.

Before choosing Shriver to replace Eagleton as his running mate, McGovern considered several other political heavyweights.

"Walter Mondale of Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Ed Muskie; there were a number of people, but I think they all thought we didn't have a chance," McGovern said.

McGovern says Shriver was a vigorous campaigner who brought the McGovern message of peace in Vietnam to the rest of the country.

"I tried to get to all 50 states.  I didn't quite make that, but when I couldn't go, he went, and so that was an important part of the campaign," McGovern said.

McGovern lost to Nixon in a landslide, but says Shriver remained hopeful right up to the end. McGovern says it was that spirit of optimism that he'll remember most about Shriver.

"He always maintained a cheerful countenance.  I don't know how he did that, but he did," McGovern said.

McGovern last spoke to Shriver about a year ago and says that cheerfulness was evident even then, as he was battling Alzheimer's.

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