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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
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Topics In the News
 
Remembering George McGovern
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/22/12
Last updated on: 10/23/12
 
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George McGovern.

George McGovern, former U.S. Senator and Democratic nominee for President of the United States, died on October 21, 2012 at a hospice in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. An unabashed liberal, McGovern is best known for his fierce opposition to the Vietnam War and his passionate advocacy in the fight against hunger. However, he was also a stalwart supporter of glbtq rights at a time when such support was neither popular nor common.

A war hero who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II, McGovern became a history and political science professor after the war. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1958. A strong supporter of President Kennedy, he won the first of three Senate terms in 1962.

An early critic of of the Vietnam War and a leader of the Democratic Party's liberal wing, McGovern first supported the presidential campaign of Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 before himself entering the race as an anti-war candidate.

After the loss by Vice President Humphrey in the presidential election of 1968, Senator McGovern set about the task of reforming the Democratic Party. The so-called McGovern commission was instrumental in making the Party more representative of the broad coalition that it represents.

During the 1972 Democratic Party Convention, at which McGovern secured the nomination, gay rights for the first time emerged as a national issue. Two openly lesbian and gay delegates, Madeline Davis of Buffalo and Jim Foster of San Francisco, made history when they gave a televised address before the convention.

Although the convention rejected a gay rights plank in the platform, Senator McGovern himself spoke in favor of gay rights, saying "I have long supported civil rights of all Americans and have in no way altered my commitment to these rights and I have no intention of doing so."

Senator McGovern was decisively defeated by Richard Nixon in the ugly campaign of 1972, but he remained a party luminary and continued to support equal rights.

For example, in 1977, during the campaign against the Briggs Initiative, a California proposition that would have authorized the firing of gay and lesbian teachers, David Mixner asked Senator McGovern to appear at a fundraiser. He agreed, and in doing so he became the first United States Senator to headline an openly gay and lesbian fundraiser.

McGovern's advocacy on behalf of gay rights is highlighted by Karen Ocamb at her blog lgbt pov and by David Mixner at his blog Live from Hell's Kitchen. Mixner ends his tribute by saying, "Even among the great, he was a giant."

Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have issued a statement describing McGovern as a friend who worked tirelessly for human rights: "We first met George while campaigning for him in 1972. Our friendship endured for 40 years. As a war hero, distinguished professor, Congressman, Senator and Ambassador, George always worked to advance the common good and help others realize their potential."

President Obama has issued a statement calling McGovern "a statesman of great conscience and conviction."

The video below is a trailer for Stephen Vittoria's 2005 documentary about Senator McGovern's campaign for President, One Bright Shining Moment--The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern."

 
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