The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Remembering George McGovern

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials, the heads of U.N. agencies and leaders of anti-hunger organizations and leaders of anti-hunger groups were among the many that issued statements of mourning and praise for the late George McGovern.

President Barack Obama

George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved. He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe.

When the people of South Dakota sent him to Washington, this hero of war became a champion for peace. And after his career in Congress, he became a leading voice in the fight against hunger.

George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family.

Obama’s tweet: A hero of war, George McGovern became a champion for peace. Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family. –bo

Vice President Joe Biden

Jill and I are profoundly saddened to hear about George McGovern’s passing. I was honored to serve with him, to know him, and to call him a friend.

George believed deeply in public service. It defined him as a senator and as a man. And he never stopped serving for his entire life — whether it was his courage in World War II, his time in Congress, or his fight to eliminate hunger at home and abroad.

Above all, George McGovern was a generous, kind, honorable man. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family today.

Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend George McGovern. The world has lost a tireless advocate for human rights and dignity.

We first met George while campaigning for him in 1972. Our friendship endured for 40 years. As a war hero, distinguished professor, congressman, senator and ambassador, George always worked to advance the common good and help others realize their potential.

Of all his passions, he was most committed to feeding the hungry, at home and around the world. The programs he created helped feed millions of people, including food stamps in the 1960s and the international school feeding program in the ’90s, both of which he co-sponsored with Sen. Bob Dole.

In 2000, Bill had the honor of awarding him the Medal of Freedom. From his earliest days in Mitchell to his final days in Sioux Falls, he never stopped standing up and speaking out for the causes he believed in. We must continue to draw inspiration from his example and build the world he fought for. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan.

I am sure there are some who were surprised by the long friendship that George and I shared. After all, before his death this weekend at age 90, he was a proud and unapologetic liberal Democrat and I am a lifelong Republican.

As chairman of the Republican Party, I did what I could to ensure the defeat of his 1972 run for the White House. When the election was over, however, George and I knew that we couldn’t keep on campaigning forever. We also knew that what we had in common was far more important than our different political philosophies. ...

In recent years, George and I had several occasions to get together and reflect on our lives, our political careers and our respective presidential campaigns. No matter how many times we replayed it, he never did defeat President Nixon and I never did defeat Bill Clinton. We agreed, however, that the greatest of life’s blessings cannot be counted in electoral votes.

In 2008, George and I were humbled to be named the co-recipients of the World Food Prize. As we were called on stage to accept the award, we once again reached across the aisle, walking to the podium literally arm-in-arm. I began my acceptance remarks by saying that “The good news is that we finally won something. It proves that you should never give up.” ...

There can be no doubt that throughout his half-century career in the public arena, George McGovern never gave up on his principles or in his determination to call our nation to a higher plain. America and the world are for the better because of him.

* Sen. Dole's column on the passing of Sen. McGovern linked below

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Simply put, Sen. George McGovern spent his life standing up for others. He honorably defended our nation during a time of war. He was a tremendous advocate for his home state of South Dakota and for all of rural America.

He championed our efforts as a nation to help hungry people, especially children, around the world, leading the way on U.S. food assistance efforts that carry on today under his name and that of his friend, former Sen. Bob Dole.

As we honor Senator McGovern’s life, I know that his legacy will impact millions of people in the years to come — from the smallest South Dakota towns that he knew and loved, to countries in every corner of the globe.

Dan Glickman, former Agriculture Secretary

George McGovern will be remembered for many things in his life. His dedicated and heroic service in World War II, his early opposition to the war in Vietnam, his race for the presidency in 1972, where he lost in a landslide against Richard Nixon, his distinguished service in the U.S. House and Senate from his beloved state of South Dakota.

But nowhere will his service be more remembered and honored than his fight against hunger and malnutrition and home and abroad, and his partnership and friendship with Sen. Bob Dole in working to feed people around the world.

George McGovern was a great, humble but persistent leader in helping the nation and world's poor and hungry. But he and Bob Dole, at two very different ends of the political spectrum, proved that politics can really sometimes end at the water's edge, and that working together as a bipartisan team can produce enormous results for humanity.

The Jewish Talmud teaches that if you save one life, you save the entire world. George McGovern saved the world many times over, in large part because two sons of the rural Midwest unshackled themselves form partisan politics to work together for the betterment of us all.

Rajiv Shah, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator

Sen. George McGovern was a tremendous leader in the global movement to end hunger and malnutrition, and his partnership and friendship to the U.S. Agency for International Development will be irreplaceable.

Sen. McGovern’s ties to our agency date back to his appointment by President John F. Kennedy as the first director of Food for Peace in 1961. He noted that this time at USAID was key to making him a lifelong champion of combating hunger, a commitment that has shaped global institutions and impacted millions of people around the world …

Sen. McGovern’s tireless dedication to ending hunger and malnutrition helped encourage a renewed focus on food security around the world, including President Obama’s global initiative “Feed the Future.” Across more than six decades of public service, he inspired countless others with his leadership, friendship, and commitment, always taking the time to mentor and coach young people.

Sen. McGovern will be greatly missed, but his legacy has left us inspired and reenergized to carry his mission forward.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass

The world has lost a great and good man, and I have lost my inspiration, my mentor, my dearest friend.

There is less hunger and poverty because of George McGovern. There is more hope. He believed that one person can change the world, and he proved it every day.

While Lisa and I will miss him terribly, we are comforted by the knowledge that he is in a better place. And we are celebrating a long and well-lived and uniquely American life.

José Graziano da SilvaU.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General

Today we have lost a tireless advocate for the world’s hungry.

His work drafting legislation in his own country to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable women, infants and children and as a vigorous champion of school lunch programs, both in the U.S. and around the world, has helped give millions of the world's poorest children the nutritional foundation needed to succeed in school and life. He will be sorely missed by the FAO community and by our partners in the fight against hunger.

Ertharin CousinU.N. World Food Program Executive Director

I and everyone at the United Nations World Food Program today deeply mourn the loss of U.S. Sen. George McGovern. He was a founding father of our organization, our first goodwill ambassador and a lifelong advocate for the hungry poor.

Over 60 years George McGovern fought for the interests of poor and hungry people, from his days as the first head of Food for Peace — where he played a key role in WFP’s creation — through three decades of mobilizing bipartisan support in the United States Congress behind humanitarian assistance and meals at school for poor children everywhere.

George McGovern saw — way before anyone else — how the simple, sustained act of putting a meal in the hands of a poor child at school could change that child’s life and give them a chance at a better future. In his later years he became a passionate advocate for the hungry: there has been no stronger and more steadfast ally in the struggle to uplift the poor and hungry around the world than George McGovern.

We have not just lost a partner but a champion in the war on the hunger, poverty and inequities that cause so much suffering in the world. To his last waking hour, George McGovern never abandoned the good fight — continuing to serve as a vigorous and vigilant champion for the voiceless.

He was a man of enormous compassion and vision. We will miss him.

David LaneU.S. Ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome

Sen. McGovern lived a rich and influential life. His deep commitment to end hunger was a force for good throughout his life, from his early days as a public servant to his later years, when he continued to be a powerful advocate for the world’s poor and hungry…

George McGovern’s dedication to combating global hunger has had a considerable impact on food and agriculture development policy around the world. The U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome continues to honor his commitment through an annual lecture series.

Jim WeillFood Research and Action Center President

George McGovern’s death is a cause of great sadness, but his life and accomplishments are a cause for celebration as well as a reminder of much that is great about America.

Among his greatest accomplishments were his Herculean efforts to end hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Today’s food stamp, WIC, school lunch and breakfast programs, McGovern-Dole International School Nutrition Program, and others owe their reach, strength, and integrity to George McGovern’s vision, dedication, political skill and perseverance.

As George McGovern knew and taught us, the fight against hunger was not just about eradicating the moral blight of unnecessary suffering. It was also about helping people to fulfill their potential – to learn, to grow, to be healthy.

Tens of millions of children and adults in the U.S. and around the world live much better lives today because they have benefitted over the years from the efforts that George McGovern championed beginning nearly 50 years ago. His impact on the world has been and will continue to be profound.

Ed CooneyCongressional Hunger Center Executive Director

Sen. George McGovern was a gentleman for all seasons. He was a man of peace and a valiant fighter on behalf of all poor and hungry people in America and around the world ...

Sen. McGovern has served as an extraordinary role model for the Congressional Hunger Center’s Emerson/Leland Hunger Fellows as a leader and champion of all people in need.

Richard LeachWorld Food Program USA Executive Director

Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of a man who has done more to fight hunger than anyone ever. No one has had more of an impact in alleviating hunger in the US and around the world than George McGovern.

His sincere and deep commitment to ensuring that no child would go hungry drove him throughout his life. He inspired strong bipartisan support and never stopped working to end hunger.

George McGovern is an American hero whose life and accomplishments represent the best of America. His legacy and unrelenting commitment to ending hunger will continue through the activists and leaders he inspired, the programs he established and through the millions of children around the world who had a meal today because of George McGovern.

Marshall MatzOFW Law — Counsel and colleague for 40 years

George McGovern had an extraordinary, full life, and his impact will be felt for years to come. ...

His most enduring legacy ... will be in the fight against hunger here at home and around the world. As was noted by President Bill Clinton when he awarded George McGovern the Presidential Medal of Freedom, George McGovern was one of the great humanitarians of our time. ...

When President Clinton launched the McGovern-Dole International School Nutrition Program in 2000 with a $300 million commitment, he said ‘George, it’s good to see that you are still at it.’ In many ways, McGovern was the grandfather of President Obama’s Feed the Future effort and the G8’s emphasis on food and agriculture.

Today, 31 million children will participate in the school lunch program, 10 million will have a school breakfast, 9 million mothers and children will participate in the WIC program and 46 million people will participate in the food stamp program. Internationally, millions of the poorest children will have one meal at school and will attend school in order to receive that meal. ...

George McGovern is responsible for all of this, along with the nutrition labels on our foods. His legacy on food and nutrition is without equal and will be felt all over the world for many years to come.

*Matz’s complete statement linked below