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DWU holds birthday, anniversary celebration for former senator

Former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.C.) accepts the Democratic nomination for president at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Fla.
Former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.C.) accepts the Democratic nomination for president at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Fla.

Dakota Wesleyan University celebrated the legacy of alumnus Sen. George McGovern Friday with a McGovern Day event, a day of speakers and lectures discussing his life and achievements.

The event honored both McGovern’s 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his 1972 presidential campaign..

George McGovern was born in Mitchell and later attended DWU. He served as both a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator and ran as the Democratic presidential candidate against Richard Nixon.

McGovern also helped found the World Food Programme, the food-assistance branch of the United Nations based in Rome.

“He was the genius that got the World Food Programme up and running, he and John F. Kennedy, but he was the one that kept pressuring him,” Joel Allen, director of the McGovern Center at DWU, said. “And it was his idea, and he kind of wrote up the master plan … on a flight to Rome.”

To celebrate McGovern, DWU hosted panel discussions and events with those who knew McGovern. The school also offered campus tours, a birthday party at the McGovern Library and a keynote lecture from professor Thomas Knock, author of “The Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern.”

Author Mark Lempke discussed his book on McGovern titled “My Brother’s Keeper,” which details his relationship with progressive Christianity and the two religious leaders McGovern worked with, Bishop James Armstrong and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

"So he had these contacts in this … organized religion sphere, both Jewish and Christian, that were very fruitful for him,” Allen said.

The day concluded with a banquet featuring U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern who worked on the senator's staff but was not related, and former Director of the World Food Programme Catherine Bertini.

Allen said he was happy with the overall turnout to the events. He said the events served as a way for McGovern's former friends and colleagues of McGovern to come together again and share their memories.

“I don’t think anything could speak more highly of Sen. McGovern than that, that these people who loved him and developed friendships working for him still admire him 50 years later,” Allen said.

Jordan is a senior English and journalism major at SDSU in Brookings. She is from De Smet, South Dakota. She is based out of the Sioux Falls studio.