Hundreds of people gathered at the First United Methodist Church on Thursday night to honor former United States Senator George McGovern who died Sunday at the age of 90.
Thursday’s prayer service honored the founder of South Dakota’s Democratic Party and one-time presidential candidate who is credited for changing the party on the national stage.
“What he taught me more than anything else was that you always speak your mind. More politicians on both sides of the aisle should do that,” McGovern's friend and political strategist Steve Hildebrand said.
Six featured speakers memorialized the long-time politician and humanitarian before a crowd of about 600. They said McGovern was attached to his family and anchored by love for them and the country he served.
“To the rest of the world he was an inspirational, dedicated, but honest public official,” McGovern staffer Berniece Mayer said.
Among the speakers was Vice President Joe Biden, who put election politics aside to praise his one-time Capitol Hill colleague.
“Someone said in the middle of a campaign, how could you be here? Where I come from the question is, how could you not be here,” Biden said.
One of McGovern's great political legacies is his opposition to the war in Vietnam. It polarized America. Biden says that position is what propelled him into politics.
“Had your father not been there, so much more blood truly would have been wasted,” Biden said to McGovern’s family.
Though McGovern is widely considered as the father of South Dakota's Democratic Party, he did not carry the state during his 1972 presidential race. Richard Nixon won by a landslide.