It was a cold winter Saturday morning as my father helped me load my hockey equipment into the trunk of his green American Motors Rambler. After he shut the trunk, I asked him what the bumper sticker on the back of the car that read “Don’t blame me I’m from Massachusetts” meant. As we got into the Rambler and started the 10 minute drive to the hockey rink, he began to tell me about a man named George McGovern. My dad told me that George McGovern was a World War II war hero who, as a pilot, flew many dangerous missions. He told me that Mr. McGovern worked for President Kennedy and helped bring surplus food from American farms to hungry people across the globe. He told me that Mr. McGovern ran for President to try to bring an end to the Vietnam War. He told me that even though he didn’t agree with Mr. McGovern on every issue, he was proud to have voted for him for President because he was a man of principle. My dad told me that Massachusetts was the only state in the country that George McGovern won when he ran for President in 1972.
As I grew older, and my interest in history and government grew, I read about George McGovern. Obviously his service during WWII as a pilot of a B-24 Liberator that flew 35 missions stood out in my mind. However, I was equally interested in his in establishing the Food for Peace program as requested by President Kennedy. As the son of the Midwest, he knew he could help family farmers while at the same time provide this most basic need to hungry nations around the world to help bring stability and good will. Additionally, as my father said George McGovern was passionate in his efforts to bring the Vietnam War to end in his capacity as a U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate. His work with Bob Dole on national and international hunger issues modeled the bipartisanship that we need more of today.
Years later I would meet George McGovern on several occasions as he visited Massachusetts to support his former staff member Congressman Jim McGovern. He was always very personable, curious about local events, and generous with his time. However, my most vivid recollection was one of his visits to Worcester during my time as Mayor. Congressman McGovern and I briefed him on what we were doing about feeding kids in Worcester. He said something that was both very simple and obvious but incredibly profound, “A child doesn’t have a chance if they go hungry day after day”. Here was a man with a lifetime of service who was well into his 80′s still pushing and advocating to make sure kids were not going hungry. A minister’s son still asking all of us, “Have we fed the poor?”
Having had the privilege to get to know Senator McGovern a little bit, I am proud of my dad and his vote in the Presidential election of 1972 and I wish that beat up green Rambler with the bumper sticker “Don’t blame me I’m from Massachusetts” was still around.