By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The sad news Thursday out of South Dakota was that former senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president, is, at age 90, near death.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Mention of his name will evoke a mix of reactions from those who lived through the difficult, divisive late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when McGovern became a symbol of the leftward drift of the Democratic Party and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

But surely all Americans can celebrate George McGovern, the war hero, who like so many of his generation heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and immediately enlisted in the Air Force.

He flew 35 missions over Europe, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving his crew with a risky emergency landing, the start of a long record of public service that led to a distinguished career in Congress.

And along with his patriotism and personal courage in standing up for his political beliefs, we should also honor McGovern for the guts he showed long after his Senate career was over.

In 1988, McGovern bought an inn in Connecticut, unfortunately for him, just as the regional economy was heading into recession. Four years later, he wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the failure of his business in which he said:

“My business associates and I…lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools…etc. While I never doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: `Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape.’ It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators…I…wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”

If only every politician were as brave, committed, and open to learning even late in life, as McGovern was.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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