If Only - George McGovern and the America that Might Have Been, James Armstrong

If Only - George McGovern and the America...
If Only - George McGovern and the America...

This book shares a familiar story of a nation divided by partisan politics. Sides are drawn in heavy black lines between the way it had always been and the wave of the future. Here is a look at a country embroiled in the issues of racial unrest along with an unpopular war overseas.

That era represents the wave of change that swept our nation into despair when the President was accused of wrong doing, and worse, that it proved to be true. Those times come flooding back in reading these notes about a Senator from South Dakota. He set his goals for the Presidency and after a triumphant effort lost in a landslide election that put “Tricky Dick” in charge.

This slender volume, a concise ninety-seven pages, written by James Armstrong, reveals the deep rooted character of the man whose values stand strong among his best qualities. Mr. Armstrong cautions us to learn from these past choices and wisely put to use the valuable lessons of those who have served our country well.

President John F. Kennedy and George McGovern

U.S. President John F. Kennedy (left) with George McGovern, who Kennedy has appointed the first Director of the Food for Peace program, 1961, photo by Unnamed White House photographer
U.S. President John F. Kennedy (left) with George McGovern, who Kennedy has appointed the first Director of the Food for Peace program, 1961, photo by Unnamed White House photographer | Source

Men of Integrity

George Stanley McGovern was a man of integrity, albeit, one who brought controversy in a nation thrown into the depths of fighting an unpopular war. The author writes, “Senator McGovern first came to national attention as a strident, vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.”

The book compares our present situation in Iraq with the choices made in the days of Mr. McGovern’s bid for the White House, when the war in Vietnam was being termed a “Police Action”.

Life Magazine’s contributor, Larry Burrows, wrote in the January edition of the same year, “By early 1963, the number of American military personnel in Vietnam had grown from several hundred to more than 10,000 in a few short years”...” America’s growing role in Vietnam was not even close to the all-encompassing, divisive issue it would become by the middle of the decade.”

Senator George McGovern, 1972

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. By Leffler, Warren K., photographer
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. By Leffler, Warren K., photographer | Source

Are you old enough to remember the 1972 elections?

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A Proponent of Peace

George McGovern suffered the indignity of being called a “spineless peacenik, an unrealistic dreamer, unpatriotic and un-American.” His senatorial opponent in the elections of 1980, inferred that George McGovern was a communist sympathizer and a weak candidate.

For a fact, he was a war hero who piloted a B-24 Liberator Bomber on thirty-five missions over enemy territory, the maximum allowable missions overseas. His bravery and fortitude of service was recognized when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at the age of twenty-two having piloted his bullet-ridden aircraft to safety after a completed mission over Germany.

Mr. McGovern’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention was no accident; it was a direct result of the tireless and ongoing work together with his wife, Eleanor, to whom he referred as his “most devoted campaigner.”

U.S. Senator George McGovern on Childhood Hunger

From Obscurity to the Senate Floor

The book details the fortitude which drove the meager son of a farmer whose meager beginnings in the dirt fields of South Dakota took him to within a view of gaining the Oval Office. It sets out his lifetime of service in his role as a Senator, of his efforts at the Paris Peace talks, his fight against world hunger, of his deep rooted beliefs and his viable call to public service. His alliance with those who believe that the United States should not be solely responsible for policing the world made him vulnerable to those who wish to guide others before taking control of our own faults as a nation.

"McGovern once wrote, 'To remain silent in the face of policies that one believes to be hurting the nation is not patriotism, it is cowardice. ...Criticism of public policy does not weaken the nation; rather it serves to refine, correct or strengthen our national course' (Response 1971)."1

Whether you agree with the political views of the former Senator or not, his actions over a lifetime are those which demonstrate integrity, determination and deep rooted character built on a strong faith and passion for the common man.

George McGovern

By Scott Clarkson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Scott Clarkson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Why Study About McGovern?

I am grateful for the opportunity to review this early edition of If Only, George McGovern and the America That Might Have Been, by James Armstrong, former United Methodist Bishop of North and South Dakota who was "the McGoverns' bishop". His lifetime association with the former Senator from South Dakota gives the author keen insight to the actual character of one of our most outspoken political leaders.

This is a volume filled with lessons to be learned, which if we are students of history, we will review to "bring essential parts of (McGovern's) reality back to life", and serves as a guiding light to shape the nation's political leadership.

Characteristics of a Patriot

After the passing of George McGovern, October 21, 2012, world leaders who spoke at the prayer service exemplified his life with a memorable tribute of words which characterized him – “Our nation has lost …an unwavering clarion voice for peace, justice, compassion and decency… The world community has lost a champion and friend of the poor and hungry.”2

President Obama said, "George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction", "a leading voice in the fight against hunger." 3

Throughout his life, Mr. McGovern demonstrated the qualities of “humility, grace, dedication, hard work, uncanny vision”; values we would wish to see imbued in those who serve our country.

"George always worked to advance the common good and help others realize their potential. Our friendship endured for forty years...Of all his passions he was most dedicated to feeding the hungry, at home and around the world." Bill and Hillary Clinton 4

Mr. Armstrong pleads with the reader to consider the character of any candidate who seeks to serve and represent “We the People” as important and essential if we are to carry forward in a positive direction.

If Only is a quick read and a fascinating study of a true American patriot. Within these few pages, the author provides a taste of things and events which are sure to inspire further study.

Looking Inside

"George McGovern first came to national attention as a bitter, angry foe of the war in Vietnam."
"George McGovern first came to national attention as a bitter, angry foe of the war in Vietnam."

Choosing Wisely

This beautifully written tribute to the 1972 Presidential Democratic nominee, Senator George McGovern, serves as a boilerplate to guide our choices in future elections. It emphasizes the importance of choosing wisely, when it comes to our leaders; the importance of selecting a candidate whose values are based on doing the right thing in all circumstances, whether it results in personal gain or loss. It details the values with which this senator, professor, religious leader and politician guided his journey while here on this earth.

Quotes

  1. George McGovern, pg. 19
  2. Bishop Bruce Ough, United Methodist Bishop, S. Dakota, at the funeral service,pg. 86, If Only
  3. President Obama, pg. 85
  4. Bill and Hillary Clinton, pg. 85

© 2014 Peg Cole

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Comments 36 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Thanks for the review, Peg. I always liked McGovern.....unfortunately, the country wasn't ready for his message at the time.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Billybuc, Thank you for being the first to read and comment on my latest. I agree totally, the country wasn't ready for his message.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Hi Peg, Nice review on George McGovern, He seemed to be a just man in my book. My brother fought in that war. He was a mechanic. Thank God he came back home after 4 years. McGovern stood for many of the same things that I stood for and like Billybuc said, unfortunately, the country wasn't ready for his message at the time. Question is, Is it ready now? Thanks for sharing. I bet it was ever uplifting in meeting him and his wife :-)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Word55, I'm also thankful that your brother came back home and wish to offer gratitude for his service to our country. So many didn't make it home, including my sister's fiancé. Many of my friends who served in the war returned forever changed, both physically and emotionally.

It truly was uplifting to meet the man at my (former) in-laws' home, early in his bid for the nomination, and to spend a day in his company on the political speaking circuit. As a young teen, it formed a memorable and lasting impression. In that short time, he impressed me as being down-to-earth, a genuine, caring human being.


retief2000 2 years ago

I remember McGovern as a gracious man whose politics we never hateful, arrogant, condescending or nasty. He, like many on both sides of the political divide, were genial, a trait that seems to be missing from every side of political debate these days. I think George McGovern was a polite and gentle man even after leaving public life. I wonder how he got on with Barry Goldwater, once they both had retired.

I say all these things knowing that I would never vote for George McGovern, but how nice it is to respect someone for whom you would not vote. That is becoming an increasingly rare thing.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is very interesting and educational for me, Peg. I knew nothing about George McGovern before reading your hub. It sounds like he was a person that I would have liked.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Retief2000. What you've said about respect is of tremendous importance in today's politics and policies. Respecting our leaders is truly a "trait that seems to be missing" in today's world. I certainly understand and appreciate your candor on your voting preferences.

So nice of you to drop by and share your insights today. It's nice to meet you.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello AliciaC. I'm delighted to have found a topic that interested you and of which you were not aware. From what I've read about you, I believe that you would probably have liked Mr. McGovern.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 2 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Hey, Peg, excellent work, as usual. I remember McGovern, and pretty sure I didn't vote for him...not that I wouldn't have today, as things have really changed in 40 years.

I see that I'm now a level one commenter. I wonder how much farther down I can go before they fire me...?


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Hello Peg. I'm ashamed to admit that i wasn't into politics back then. He seems like a good man who cared about our country and the poor. I would vote for him now that i know more about him. I watched the video, his words were coming from his heart. I wonder if we'll ever have a chance to elect a person who cares more about ' we the people ' than his/her pockets. Great book review. Shared on twitter.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi James, SubRon7, Level One or Level Eight, your comments are always welcomed and appreciated. It is interesting to see how our views change over time, and how our nation has changed as well. Again, thank you for your service to our country during that time of great turmoil.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Always, I appreciate your comment about Mr. McGovern's character and thank you for watching the video. I believe that his nature came through in his message. He was soft-spoken and deeply touched by the needs of others.

It would be good to have representatives who actually care about the people and who have a genuine desire to serve. Thanks for the share on Twitter. Nice to see you.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Peg. Very interesting review. In my view the country went off the cliff with Nixon at the wheel. So I understand playing, 'If Only'

Good to see you post here.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Mckbirdbks, So good to see you today. I've missed you. Yes, those were certainly some uncertain times with all kinds of scandals abounding. Reminds me of present day politics. Hope to see a post from you on the way.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

I found your hub very interesting for sure. True patriots today are hard to find, especially even to find men who demonstrate integrity, determination and deep rooted character built on a strong faith and passion for the common man. My dad came back from the wars not the same man before he went, as he suffered from PTSD and no one really talked about it back then or offered any help. It was a terrible thing to listen to my dad in the middle of night suffering with PTSD.

I am glad I watched that video and anyone who desires to put an end to childhood hunger is awesome in my book, as that child could have very well been me standing up against that wall. We went through hard times as a child, and I remember what it feels like to go hungry. Not a good feeling. It should never be the case, especially here in America!

I did not answer the poll, as I was not old enough to really pay attention to the election at that time. But I do remember McGovern and learned much here in your hub.

Voted up +++

Hope you are having a lovely Sunday


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Faith, Your introspective comment touched my heart in so many ways. I'm sorry for the difficulties you faced as a child and that your Dad suffered such a traumatic reentry into civilian life. My Dad had a difficult time adjusting after he retired, having entered the military service at 17 and leaving it at 41. It was filled with uncertainty and upheaval as he changed jobs a few times, searching for his true calling. Our military today still pays a hefty price for their service to our country.

I am glad you found the book review interesting, and that you found a place in your heart for this patriot who spent his life in service to his country as well.

Thank you and May God bless you and America.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

Look what was done to the reputation of both John Kerry and John McCain when they ran for president -- talking about JM against Bush the first time. Greed doesn't care if someone is of the same party and agrees with them on a lot of things. Greed will destroy anything that gets in its path. Anything.

Sounds like a good book and worth reading.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

Great hub.. fantastic review.. I think.. hold on before you take out your punching gloves.. McGovern.. even though.. I liked his politics had so much of Nixon in him.............. Those dots are me running away from you


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Au fait, I agree that politics is not always pretty. More often than not, it's a game of dirty politics, mud slinging, greed and worse. I think that most politicians start off with high ideals but they change under the influences of the power and greed. I have a lot of respect for John McCain for his service to our country and his years as a prisoner of war.

I'm glad you came by to speak your mind. Thank you.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Frank, Thanks for the fantastic comment. No need to run away. I don't own any punching gloves. Holding an opposing view to the text is perfectly okay. It's a book review, after all. Thanks for expressing your views. I can appreciate that.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

In 1972, I had never been to America; but it is great that through the authorship of James Armstrong and a good book review by you Peg, I can learn about the powerful, gracious character of George McGovern. I appreciate the lesson, and I am interested in reading that little book. Thanks for introducing it.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Ms. Dora, I had forgotten that you were out of the country at that time. Thank you for the kind words about the book review and for wanting to read the book. It is a true compliment that it inspired you to learn more about Mr. McGovern. History can teach us so many things. Nice of you to come by today.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I was too young to know anything about McGovern's politics at the time he was active, but I enjoyed your hub. We need more good and decent people leading the country, and I don't mind liberals. Frank is running away from you. We can go catch him if you want.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Flourish, That was a long time ago and I'm sure it seems like history to most of the population at this time. I still remember it like it was yesterday. He did seem like a good and decent person.

Yes, with your help, I think we can catch Frank and tickle him until he cries Uncle.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Peg, this for me was amazing, I don't remember much about this, not paying to much attention to politics (if I knew then what I know now) If only I had known, I would have been more active in politics.

Yes History facts can teach us about past mistakes. But it did not help John Kerry when the facts were twisted and the truth was pass around as a lie.

Bless you Peg for writing this.

Voted up, UABI, and shared with my followers, facebook and Pinned to Amazing HubPages

Shyron


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Shyron, History really can teach us a lot. I wish I had known that in high school. It seems I'm more interested in history now than I ever was back then. Thank you for the amazing comment and for the votes, pins and shares. May blessings come to you as well.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

Politics during McGovern's era was a much different ball game. Thanks for bringing back the highlights of this man's thoughts and political stand. The book sounds worth reading.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Teaches12345, Different ball game with different players, that's for sure. I enjoy reading history now more than ever. Glad you dropped in to read this. Thank you.


HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great review of this book about a remarkable man. George McGovern was a principled, courageous man. As was said earlier, his message did not resonate as it should have in 1972. He fought courageously in a good war and spoke out against a wrong war. Excellent Hub, Peg.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, HSchneider, for dropping in and for the excellent comment. I appreciate your taking time to read and add your sentiments about Mr. McGovern. Nice to meet you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

McGovern was definitely a patriot who felt that he was giving his al and doing his best for this country. If we could only have more like him.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Aviannovice, So true. We need more patriots who deeply care about our nation and where it's going. Thanks for the visit and comment.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

I was in the 3rd grade during the Nixon-McGovern contest, and I still remember the mock election we had in class. Nixon won of course, by a lot, and I regrettably voted for him. Of course we were just aping our parents. As it turns out Nixon was the worst president ever, but he still had his apologists. I will never forgive him for killing the space program that Kennedy so boldly got rolling.

Your review prompts me to further study on this "what if" of American history, a man who became somewhat of a joke but certainly didn't deserve it. Great hub!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Mel, Of course, as kids we followed along with our parents' political lead. It would have been bad news if we hadn't. I was just investigating the demise of the space program, inspired by your comment. Very interesting reading. Thanks for dropping in, for your insightful comment and for reading this hub.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 12 months ago from Orlando, FL

I remember that my dad was a fan of George McGovern and he wasn't a fan of too many politicians. Excellent book review. Random fact about me: I was born the year JFK was assassinated that might be why I am a fan of JFK.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 12 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you for visiting. He was a wonderful man, Sunshine, and your Dad, too. I was just a kid when JFK was in office but I remember seeing his motorcade pass along a highway near us in Key West a few weeks before his assassination.

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    Peg Cole (PegCole17)1,332 Followers
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    Peg Cole earned a BA in Government and Politics at UT Dallas. She's a former project manager turned freelance writer.



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