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Remembering a Man of Principle

You’re going to be hearing and reading a lot about George McGovern in the days ahead.

I think the first time I saw Mr. McGovern might have been in 1960, when he was running for the Senate and visited Salem for McCook County Achievement Days (I was a young 4-Her at the time).

After John Kennedy was elected, he appointed McGovern to head up the Food for Peace program. George McGovern and food issues went together even then.

He was elected to the Senate in 1962, narrowly defeating Joe Bottum, who had been appointed when Sen. Francis Case died. Fast-forward to 1968 when, seeking re-election, he and Eleanor were riding in the homecoming parade at Dakota Wesleyan University an institution dear to their hearts.

I was marching with the Montrose High School Band on a bitterly cold day, and as we waited in line to start, some of us couldn’t play our instruments because valves and slides were stuck in the cold.

Several of us were standing there, freezing in our band uniforms, and George invited us to sit with them in their heated convertible. The top was down, but the heater was on and it was very much an improvement and they were very gracious.

As a television and then radio reporter, I had occasion to talk with him more times, but my favorite meeting with him was about 15 years ago when Sharon and I were in Sears.

There, in the men’s department, was a former three-term Senator and the 1972 Democratic candidate for President. We talked and he said he had been visiting his sister and needed to buy (my memory fades here) either socks or gloves before he left Sioux Falls.

And that’s one of the reasons I love South Dakota. You never know who you’re going to run into.

Now, no one would have blamed George McGovern if, after losses in 1972 and 1980, he had disappeared from public view, but he didn’t.

He stuck to his principles and kept at it, proposing ways to end hunger around the world, one of the most important issues to him.

And in the end, trying to keep people from being hungry has to be one of the most important things anyone can do.

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