George McGovern discussed “The Art of Diplomacy” and shared views on world hunger and anti-war issues in La Fetra Hall April 20. McGovern was a Democratic senator from South Dakota from 1963 to 1981, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972, United Nations delegate, and a pilot in World War II, flying 35 combat missions.
Every now and then we are given the chance to draw upon the past for wisdom. It is in these moments that we gain insight on how to handle the present and plan for the future.
George McGovern, former United States Senator, presidential candidate, long-time political leader and the United Nations’ first global ambassador on hunger has dedicated his life to such an undertaking.
“I have never been more disappointed in our leadership than today,” McGovern said at a lecture on “The Art of Diplomacy,” held April 20 in La Fetra Auditorium.
The lecture was a testament to how 83 years of life can give a compelling perspective on today’s most current events.
“Today as I look at the Senate and the Congress of the United States I see very few statespeople and I long for the day of some of those statesmen who could go to the other side of the aisle and do what’s right for the nation rather than what is politically expedient,” said Stephen Morgan, president of the University of La Verne. “In my opinion, George McGovern was one of those senators in the United States.”
For little more than an hour, McGovern delicately drew the connections between the war in Iraq with the “diplomatic blunder” of Vietnam.
“I thought Sen. McGovern was an excellent speaker and made some excellent points outlining historical analogies between Vietnam and the current war in Iraq; it was very worth while,” said Guy Gordon, a ULV student who attended the lecture.
As a former U.S. Senator and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, McGovern’s stance professionally and politically was just as strong back then as it is today.
“I just out worked everybody and my message was clear,” said
McGovern, to an audience of more than 200 people. “If I (were) elected I (was) going to terminate that war within 90 days.”
McGovern expressed a similar sentiment for today’s war in Iraq, referring to it as an “unwise intervention” and stating that, “90 days would give us ample time to engineer an orderly withdraw.”
“Interventions are very risky, especially when they come through the barrel of a gun,” McGovern added.
As a World War II pilot and doctoral graduate of Northwestern University, McGovern believes that the college students of today would be much more vocal about the war in Iraq if they were facing a draft, such as the youth of the Vietnam era did.
He also said that errors in diplomacy occurred when President Bush failed to get the United Nations’ approval before going to war, and when President Harry Truman did not respond to a series of eight letters from Ho Chi Minh requesting U.S. assistance to free the Vietnamese from French rule.
“It was very informative the way he spoke about Vietnam and the effectiveness of diplomacy,” said Mario Pamplona, a sophomore history major. “It was an important part of diplomacy to answer those letters; there’s always the ‘what if?’ What if they answered those letters, could they have stopped it?”
The McGovern lecture was part of ULV’s International Studies Institute’s Hot Spot Series and was co-sponsored by the Southern California Consortium of International Studies, as well as the Associated Students of ULV and other ULV departments.
McGovern, the son of a Methodist minister and a native of South Dakota, not only brought years of political experience to the table but 50 years of activism as well. He released a book in 2001 about the U.S. contribution to the battle against worldwide hunger called, “The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time.”
“We had great hope that he could set the nation on a new course,” Morgan said, while reminiscing about the kind of leadership McGovern would’ve brought to the Oval Office had he won the 1972 election. “I remember staying up late watching television here on the west coast to see the results.”
Yet, McGovern does not seem to regret the course his life has taken. On the contrary, he seems to believe everything happens for a reason and speaks with complete contentment.
“I haven’t spent one day wishing I could trade places with the big time landslide winner,” McGovern said, referring to his loss against incumbent Richard Nixon, winning only 17 of the possible 538 electoral votes.
McGovern’s lecture was previewed with a free showing of the 2005 documentary, “One Bright Shining Moment” two days earlier on April 18.
The film mapped out McGovern’s presidential campaign.
Presidency or no presidency, it is obvious McGovern’s impact on people was immense and long lasting.
“Numerous faculty and administrators mentioned to me that they voted for McGovern in 1972,” said Kenneth Marcus, associate professor of political science. “Two even said that they still have the bumper stickers.”
Christine Collier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.