“This is Sen. George McGovern,” declared a voice on the telephone. “I’ve just heard about your candidate for state school superintendent who is running on a school choice platform.”
Most Americans are familiar with South Dakota Senator George McGovern as a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.
Most know that he was drafted as the Democrat presidential candidate in 1972 after his friend Bobby Kennedy was assassinated during his presidential bid.
Few, however, are likely to be aware of McGovern’s support for school choice.
“School choice has been my issue for 23 years,” McGovern continued, speaking to my campaign manager, Alberta Churchill, in the spring of 1993. “I’d like to have helped out on this campaign, but it’s too late now,” just one week before the April 6 election.
Needless to say, Alberta was amazed, and so was I.
When I lost that campaign by a mere 5 percentage points, my thoughts were soon directed toward a rematch – hopefully with McGovern’s active participation.
However, before those four years had elapsed, George’s beloved, but troubled daughter, Teri, had tragically died in the snow in Madison. After years of struggling against drug and alcohol addiction, Teri was at peace.
Eventually, the family tragedy took George and Eleanor on a nationwide tour, promoting Geoege’s biography, Teri.
George wrote candidly, hoping to warn other parents to do everything possible – to persist in supporting their addicted children as long as it takes to prevent the heartbreak the McGoverns endured.
For the Monona, Wis., stop, I made arrangements to speak briefly with Sen. McGovern, after he dedicated the new, family-funded Teri McGovern Center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
As planned, I asked McGovern to support my upcoming second bid to become a school choice Wisconsin school superintendent.
He gently explained that since Teri’s death and the book tour, he had found it necessary to even turn down the Democratic National Convention’s speaker slot to continue his new crusade.
The senator confided that this endeavor was taking a lot out of him.
He didn’t have to tell me that. It was apparent while he gave his prepared remarks. Physically and emotionally, it was wearing him and petite, fragile Eleanor down.
I told McGovern that I completely understood, and thanked him for taking time with me.
He kindly signed my copy of Teri and wished me well.
That copy I used for years with my English 9 students, reading parts daily, trying to prevent additional drug and alcohol-related tragedies, trying to carry on George Mc Govern’s mission.
Rest in peace, George.