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Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern’s Impact On Modern Elections

Former presidential nominee and Sen. George McGovern arrives for the funeral for R. Sargent Shriver in January 2011. Shriver, an in-law of the Kennedys and the first director of the Peace Corps, was McGovern’s vice presidential running mate. (AP/Cliff Owen)

In this Oct. 31, 1972 photo, Sen. George McGovern holds up the hand of his wife Eleanor and announced to the crowd that it was their 29th wedding anniversary. (AP/Bob Schutz)

George McGovern died this weekend at age 90, just about 40 years after his historic loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.

We spoke with historian and Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer about McGovern’s role in changing the presidential nominating process.

Perhaps because of those new rules, McGovern didn’t deliver his acceptance speech until three o’clock in the morning.

You can listen to McGovern’s 2009 interview on Here & Now about Abraham Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War:

You can also hear Robin’s personal essay on McGovern’s passing:


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  • Elaine K.

    Thank you so much Robin for reminding us of the great men who have walked among us.  George McGovern was a courageous man on so many levels and your tribute to him was so moving.  His speech in the early morning hours when he conceded the election to Nixon is as timely today as it was then.  Come home America.
    Elaine K

  • Dhd126

    Wonderful, moving piece on Senator George McGovern. A beautiful ending with a portion  of McGovern’s reading of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s entire speech is all of 270 words long,  and the tape of McGovern’s recitation of it was within a few seconds of the end, and yet you faded the audio to close the story. It was a very unsatisfying way to end a powerful eulogy and a beautiful reading of Lincoln’s oral masterwork. 

    • Robin

      so sorry!! but we’d been negotiating all day with the Orchestra for even that!!
      I’d heard about the recording,  but they had licensing requirements , and are not supposed to play it outside of the state..
      at the very last second, they sent some, we got it to the studio just as I introduced it!!
      That’s the first time I heard it, almost lost it, but we are profoundly grateful.

      We will link as much as we can at hereandnow dot org.


      • Robin

        there is now several minutes of George McGovern reading Copland’s
        “Lincoln Portrait” at the end of the essay audio above.


    • Mike

       I agree that it was “unsatisfying”, but not the story– the history was unsatisfying.  This story of McGovern reminds me of the colossal mistakes we (America) made in the past:  so many wars, so few solutions.

      We didn’t listen to McGovern then, and we’re still not listening now.

      We jump to violence when we can’t instantly have our way.  We quibble over marijuana, when alcohol kills thousands.

  • Susan Roche

    Thank you, Robin, for that beautiful tribute to George McGovern – the politician & the man.  His run for president was my first serious political involvement.  Although I remain a strong liberal Democrat & activist, no other candidate has ever equaled Sen. McGovern  in my eyes.  Although I never met the man, when I heard of his death yesterday I felt like I needed to take a few moments to mourn for him and your tribute just allowed me to do that.

    Susan Roche
    Springfield, MA

    • Steve__T

       Well said, and I too was in his corner as my first presidential election I voted in when I got home.

  • Sfreas

    I’m adding my voice in appreciation of your loving tribute to George McGovern. His political career began my involvement in politics in Philadelphia as well. As a college student, I petitioned for the McGovern Hatfield amendment on the same day as the Kent State massacre. I campaigned for him for President and realized my first heartbreak in politics. The fact that he carried only Massachusetts contributed to my decision  to move to Boston four years later. He lived a good life and fought the good fight. We’ve lost two fine men in the span of 3 weeks, George McGovern Barry Commoner. May their principles and activism live on.

  • Bhartman

    Massachusetts AND Washington DC!

  • Rande Neukam

    Robin — please post your personal tribute to McGovern — it really should be shared —

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Hi Rande, Robin’s essay can now be read and listened to here: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2012/10/22/robin-george-mcgovern

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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