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George McGovern Visited WC Twice

WC Presented Liberal Icon Honorary Degree in 1962 and Invited Him to Speak at 1997 Peace Symposium

October 23, 2012

George McGovern spoke at WC's 1997 Westheimer Peace Symposium.

George McGovern spoke at WC's 1997 Westheimer Peace Symposium.

As the world remembers George S. McGovern, who died Sunday (Oct. 21) at 90 years old, Wilmington College can reflect upon two visits to campus made by the iconic former U.S. senator from South Dakota.

The first was in June 1962 when the College conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree upon him during its Commencement ceremony. McGovern was John F. Kennedy’s head of the Food for Peace program. Later that year, South Dakotians elected him to his first term in the U.S. Senate.

On Oct. 29 1997, WC brought him in as the keynote presenter for the seventh annual Westheimer Peace Symposium, at which he spoke about the post-Cold War era as an opportunity to gain national strength in such domestic issues as education, health care, technology, families, innovation and industrial production.

The World War II fighter pilot that flew 35 bombing missions was especially well known for his opposition to the Vietnam War, which was viewed as unpatriotic by many of his fellow veterans.

“Running for president in 1972 on an anti-war platform was the most patriotic thing I could do,” he told the Peace Symposium audience. “I never once criticized an American soldier who fought in Vietnam — my criticism was not directed at the soldiers, rather, at the top policy makers.

“I still mourn the deaths of 59,000 Americans there,” he added. “I take the satisfaction that we spoke the truth and helped force an end to the Vietnam War — my hope is that you students will seek and speak the truth.”

The three-term senator ran for president three times, most notably on an anti-Vietnam War platform in 1972, when Richard Nixon defeated him in a landslide victory. The iconic statesman was unabashedly proud of his liberal viewpoints.

McGovern publicized the problem of hunger within the United States and issued the "McGovern Report" that led to a new set of nutritional guidelines for Americans. McGovern later served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture from 1998–2001 and was appointed the first UN Global Ambassador on World Hunger by the World Food Programme in 2001.

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided school meals for millions of children in dozens of countries since 2000 and resulted in McGovern being named World Food Prize co laureate in 2008.