Former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, who passed away on Sunday, was a valued member of the HWS and Geneva communities. McGovern visited the Colleges in April of 2002, extending a generous hand to those on campus and in the city of Geneva.
McGovern spoke in a free, public talk in Albright Auditorium – one of the earliest speakers to engage the community as part of the President’s Forum Speaker Series. His talk, “Ending Hunger in Our Time,” was a passionate address that inspired the campus to initiate a highly successful public food drive.
A well-documented activist seeking to end hunger and malnutrition, McGovern authored the best-selling book, “The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time,” which laid a foundation for ending world hunger by 2030 through a five-point plan. In his lecture, McGovern shared his experiences as director of President John F. Kennedy’s Food for Peace Program with the campus community, and voiced his concerns over then-President George Bush’s proposed $48 billion increase in military spending – which he thought would be better invested in programs concerning health, education and the environment.
While in Geneva, McGovern spent a busy afternoon volunteering at the Geneva Community Lunch Program, aiding volunteers in serving lunch. After helping to distribute hot lunches to community members in need, McGovern also paid a visit to Geneva Head Start, where he delighted families in the child development program with a reading of Leo Lionni’s classic children’s book “Inch by Inch.”
The following day, when McGovern addressed a large audience at Syracuse University, it was Gearan who had the privilege of introducing the revered politician.
McGovern continued to nurture his connection with the Colleges, lending his expertise during Gearan’s “Campaigns and Elections” course – co-taught by Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman. In 2008, McGovern phoned into the class, giving students a personal and in-depth look into his senatorial career and his bid for president against incumbent Richard Nixon.
Growing up in South Dakota during the Great Depression, McGovern’s concerns for those stricken by poverty were present from a young age. When the country was pulled into World War II, McGovern volunteered to serve the United States as a bomber pilot, becoming a highly decorated member of the Army Air Corps. However, during his unsuccessful 1972 presidential campaign, he called for an immediate end to the war in Vietnam.
McGovern was elected to Congress in 1956 – and reelected in 1958. In 1963, he began his tenure as a U.S. senator. Despite losing his presidential bid to Nixon, McGovern continued to serve as a respected senator until 1981. During his time in the Senate, McGovern also served as a United Nations delegate to the General Assembly under President Gerald Ford, and as a United Nations delegate for the Special Session on Disarmament under President Jimmy Carter.
After leaving the Senate, McGovern served as a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including Columbia University, Northwestern University, Cornell University, American University and the University of Berlin, and continued his work fighting hunger. McGovern was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor. He also authored several books including “War Against Want” (1964), “A Time of War, A Time of Peace” (1968), and “The Great Coalfield War” (1972).