March 30, 2010

Inspiration - George McGovern - Now and Then

"You know, sometimes, when they say you're ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing." George McGovern

Then -- The briefest of history:
McGovern represented South Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981 and was the Democratic nominee for president (running against Republican Richard Nixon) in 1972. McGovern was a decorated bomber pilot in World War II, after which he earned his doctorate in American history and government at Northwestern University.

McGovern was a symbol of hope and always outspoken against war, against poverty, for peace. Many of us watched in horror as he was brutally trumped by Nixon in the 1972 election (and,remember, Nixon was disgraced just two years later). McGovern then went on to continue a fine career as a Senator with many other interests and life challenges including receiving an honorary law degree, being a published author (his most recent book a biography of Abraham Lincoln), and the topic of biographies, his alcoholic daughter's death, and stints as a used bookstore owner and the owner of a Connecticut Inn.
For a more detailed chronology read the entry at wikipedia

So why do I write about him now? Where's the current inspiration?

While on our sabbatical (The Dream Year) Alan and I serendipitously heard McGovern lecture.

Early on an April evening in 2009, Alan and I were strolling around St Augustine, FL and followed a group of folks gravitating towards Flagler College. We found out that McGovern, who was declaring Fort Augustine his winter home, was speaking at the college that night, actually in fifteen minutes after our arrival, and that the event was free and open to the public.

What we saw was an old man stiffly making his way to the podium, but an impressive old man. At 85 he still had strong opinions and wonderful anecdotes to share. He spoke about peace -- and reported advising President Obama to get out of Iraq (and likened our involvement to our decades long occupation of Korea) and spoke about his bipartisan effort with former Senator Dole to eradicate hunger around the world. He explained how food and literacy and women's health and independence are linked.
Dole and McGovern became the 2008 World Food Prize Laureates because:

The McGovern-Dole Program emphasizes benefiting girls and young women and overcoming gender inequalities in literacy and access to education. Traditionally, young girls in many developing countries are often kept out of school to work in the home performing child care, elder care, and other domestic chores, or are sent out to earn a living.

However, when meals are available at school, and/or take-home rations are available to the families of students attending school, girls and young women are much more likely to be allowed—even encouraged—to enroll, with numerous benefits. For example, studies in Mexico have shown that school-feeding programs there have led to girl students’ finishing school at higher rates, and also marrying later in life and having fewer children.

I am impressed, with McGovern that cliche "He walks the walk" shines through as real and inspirational. Through all the decades, undaunted, and with seeming wisdom mixed with just the right amount of skepticism George McGovern continues doing what's right. Ohh, how I can learn from him, how when I falter and think of toning down my involvements in causes I believe in, I will think of good old George still fighting the good fight.

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