The Common Good

George McGovern, 1922-2012

Photo by Cliff Owen-Pool/Getty Images
Sen. George McGovern in 2011. Photo by Cliff Owen-Pool/Getty Images

Former Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern died early Sunday morning at a hospice in Sioux Falls, S.D. He had been suffering from a number of conditions related to age, and was admitted to the hospice earlier this week. In a statement announcing his death, his family said:

“We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, successful and productive life advocating for the hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace.”

McGovern served three terms as a U.S. Senator from South Dakota from 1962-1980. He won the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and ran on a central plank of ending the war in Vietnam. He was defeated by Richard Nixon in a 61 percent to 37 percent landslide.

Both during his time in office and after, one of his main passions was hungry people. President John F. Kennedy named him the first director of the Food for Peace Program, and in that role he helped found the U.N. World Food Program. In 2001 he was named its first Global Ambassador on World Hunger. Under President Bill Clinton, McGovern and fellow former Senator Bob Doleworked to grow and fund programs such as school lunches, food stamps, and nutritional help for pregnant women and poor children.

In his 1972 convention speech accepting the nomination, Sen. McGovern closed by saying:

It is the time for this land to become again a witness to the world for what is just and noble in human affairs. It is time to live more with faith and less with fear, with an abiding confidence that can sweep away the strongest barriers between us and teach us that we are truly brothers and sisters.

So join with me in this campaign. Lend Senator Eagleton and me your strength and your support, and together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.

From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.

From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.

From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick -- come home, America.

Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.

Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land -- from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters -- this land was made for you and me.”

So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.

It is a vision that 40 years after that speech, we still aspire to.

A complete obituary is HERE.

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