Former Vice President Walter Mondale and a panel of politicians and journalists gathered Thursday morning at Ted Mann Concert Hall to remember and discuss the legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey.
The event, which drew a crowd of about 450 people, was called “The Mondale Lectures on Public Service” and examined history-making events of the past 50 years.
Gail Harrison, chief trade and domestic policy adviser to Mondale during his vice presidency, opened the forum by saying, “Today’s event isn’t about an issue or political event, it’s about a person … and what a person.”
In the Senate, Humphrey pushed for civil rights, financial aid, Head Start, food stamps, expanded housing, air and water protection laws and expanding the National Institutes of Health.
Mondale, who received a standing ovation from the crowd of mostly baby boomers and the elderly, spoke for 40 minutes about his good friend and colleague.
“Hubert was my mentor, friend and colleague. He believed that government should make people’s lives better,” Mondale said. “He used to say, ‘The moral of government is how it treats the dawn of life, it’s children; how it treats the twilight of life, it’s elderly; and how it treats the shadow of life, the sick, less fortunate, disabled.'”
Mondale went on to talk about the bills that passed while Humphrey served as senator, his accomplishments as the mayor of Minneapolis, as the vice president of the United States and as a presidential candidate.
“He didn’t understand hate, being vindictive or getting even,” Mondale said of Humphrey.
Before Humphrey passed away in 1977, 1,000 people were polled on Capitol Hill and declared Humphrey the most beneficial senator of the 20th century.
After Mondale’s speech, the panel of speakers – which included Albert Eisele, Walter Mondale’s press secretary from 1977 to 1981; Arthur Naftalin, executive secretary to then-mayor Humphrey and one of his Washington staff members; and Geri Joseph, an award-winning journalist and active DFLer, among others – discussed Humphrey’s role in government.
The speakers described Humphrey as joyful, always having a plan, energetic and forever kind.
“The difference between politics then and now is that (Humphrey) understood that bipartisan government meant compromise, that a lack of government wasn’t a positive thing, and he knew what civility really meant,” Norman Sherman, a former Humphrey press secretary said. “That’s why there’s such a longing to have someone like Humphrey in government again.”
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