SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — In a stirring tribute yesterday to former Sen. George McGovern, Vice President Joe Biden hailed the one-time presidential nominee as the “father of the modern Democratic Party” for his forceful stand against the Vietnam War and for helping open the party to more women, young people and minorities.
Biden’s 25-minute reflection capped a day of remembrance to the South Dakota icon, who carried his anti-war sentiment to his party’s nomination in a 1972 race he would lose in a historic landslide to Republican President Richard Nixon.
Despite the loss, Biden said McGovern summoned public restlessness with the war and helped bring about its end before “so much more blood and so much more treasure would have been wasted.”
“The war would never have ended when it did. It would never have ended how it did,” Biden said, his voice rising as he turned his body toward McGovern’s daughters. “Your father gave courage to people who didn’t have the courage to speak up to finally stand up. Your father stood there and took all of that beating.”
A larger funeral service for McGovern, who died Sunday at age 90, is set for today.
The evening ceremony featured heartfelt tributes by McGovern family members, longtime friends and political loyalists. The crowd of hundreds sat hushed as snippets of McGovern’s acceptance speech from the 1972 Democratic National Convention crackled on a church loudspeaker. “We are entering a new period of important and hopeful change in America,” came the echo from the past.
Mourners from near and far spent the afternoon filing past a flag-draped coffin, many drawing attention to his lifelong efforts to fight global hunger.
Biden, who served in the Senate with McGovern in the 1970s, led a cast of dignitaries. But many of those who showed up early at the First United Methodist Church were friends, neighbors, constituents or admirers of McGovern.