Senator George McGovern
Liberal Icon, Former U.S. Senator, Author
For the last quarter-century, no person has ranked higher in liberal causes and no person has been so identified with Democratic Party principles than Senator George McGovern. From the farmland to the Oval Office, McGovern has brought new direction to many issues in American politics.
A two-term member of the House of Representatives and a U.S. senator for 18 years, McGovern was the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee. His later bid for the White House in 1984 won him the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike for the class and reason he brought to his troubled party. In 2004, George McGovern was honored for a lifetime of national service by the Association of Former Congressmen.
A foreign policy scholar and long-time champion of the American farmer, McGovern was named by President Kennedy as the first director of the Food for Peace Program in 1960. The worldwide success of this program helped propel him to the Senate in 1962.
While in the Senate, McGovern served on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committees. Virtually all major pieces of farm legislation during his Senate term bear his mark. He furthered agricultural discussion in his book, Agricultural Thought in the 20th Century.
During his first Senate term, McGovern was one of the first in the U.S. Congress to openly oppose American participation in the Vietnam War. He was closely allied with Senator Robert Kennedy in his efforts to redirect the Johnson administration's position, and McGovern's leadership in the anti-war movement launched a grassroots call for his nomination as the 1972 Democratic candidate. His book, A Time of War/A Time of Peace, and his autobiography, Grassroots, outline his experiences during those turbulent years in American history.
Before he launched his political career, the South Dakota native was one of World War II's great heroes. As a pilot in Europe, he flew 35 missions and received the Distinguished Service Flying Cross. He later earned a PhD at Northwestern University and returned to South Dakota to be a college history professor.
McGovern served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee throughout the 1970s, and was appointed by both Presidents Carter and Ford as a United Nations delegate. In 1982, McGovern founded Americans for Common Sense, providing an alternative political voice to negative extremist elements in American politics. Following this, he spent six years as the president of the Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C., promoting peace in the Middle East through educational programs. Now retired, McGovern was most recently the U.S. director of the U.N. Agencies on Food and Agriculture—an ambassadorial post in Rome, Italy, and served as the U.N. Special Ambassador on Hunger. Following his service in Rome, he was awarded the coveted Ben Franklin trophy by the Council of Former Ambassadors.
McGovern’s book, The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time, discusses the ongoing problem with hunger in our world. Defining it as a political condition, McGovern discusses that it is a greater moral imperative than ever before because for the first time, humanity has the tools and the knowledge to defeat this ancient enemy. His book Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism, is a deeply moving chronicle of his third child’s efforts to overcome her addiction to alcohol. After Terry’s tragic death from alcoholism in 1994, McGovern established The McGovern Family Foundation to raise funds for alcohol research, and a recovery facility, the Teresa McGovern Treatment Center, was erected in his daughter’s memory in Madison, Wisconsin. He devotes much of his time to speaking about his daughter and the problem of alcoholism in America.
His latest book, The Essential America: Our Founders and the Liberal Tradition (2004), has won high praise. McGovern holds the nation’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also decorated by the French government for his heroic service in World War II by being admitted to the French Legion of Honor. A candid and witty speaker and formidable debater, Senator McGovern is a must for any forum discussing contemporary political or world affairs.