University hosts Walter Mondale memorial service; Biden recollects

The University hosted former Vice President Walter Mondale’s memorial service on Sunday, with President Joe Biden, Gov. Tim Walz and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith in attendance with University faculty and Mondale relatives.


Image by Alex Steil

Joe Biden speaks at the memorial service for former Vice President Walter Frederick “Fritz” Mondale held Sunday.

by Alex Steil

On Sunday, during a memorial service for former Vice President Walter Frederick “Fritz” Mondale, Sen. Amy Klobuchar had to stop for a moment to compose herself while speaking about a 2004 memory of Mondale.

Klobuchar said while she was the Hennepin County attorney preparing to speak at the 2004 National Democratic Convention, Mondale told Klobuchar to memorize her speech and not rely on the teleprompter. Because of that advice, she did not use the teleprompter and had “fun” giving the speech. At the end, Klobuchar received a standing ovation.

“Do you know why?” Klobuchar asked the crowd. “Because Walter Mondale was there in the first row. And when he stood, they stood.”

The University of Minnesota hosted the memorial service for the late University professor. President Joe Biden, Gov. Tim Walz, Senators Klobuchar and Tina Smith and University President Joan Gabel spoke at the event, in addition to a performance by the University marching band.

Mondale, who was born and raised in Minnesota, died in Minneapolis on April 19, 2021.

Mondale is often credited with reshaping the role of the modern vice presidency under Jimmy Carter and was a champion of civil rights — both domestically and internationally. Before being elected to the executive branch, Mondale served as Minnesota Attorney General and in the United States Senate.

Mondale’s impact on Biden and the United States
After being elected to the United States Senate in 1972, Biden’s wife and children were in a car accident, which killed his wife and daughter and left his sons in critical condition.

“The last thing I wanted to do was go to the United States Senate,” Biden said. “But there was Fritz and [his wife] Joan, who contacted me, not just to be nice, but to bring me in. They came into the hospital to see my boys, to help me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain.”

Biden said it was the Mondale’s connection and support during that period in his life that encouraged him to stay in public life and work in the Senate.

Mondale had a career that was steeped in civil rights activism. When he was Minnesota Attorney General, he mobilized other states to file briefs in the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright. Afterward, that case required states to provide public defense attorneys.

During his time in the Senate, he helped to pass Title IX and filibuster reform, and also served on the historic Church Committee. The Committee highlighted the ways in which the FBI abused their power by spying on citizens, most notably civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Throughout the service, Mondale was characterized as someone who had a strong moral compass that was often guided by faith. Mondale’s Reverend, Tim Hart-Andersen, spoke at the event and quoted Mondale as saying, “I was taught that our faith was one of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

From 2005 to 2020, Mondale created and lectured a Humphrey School class with professor Larry Jacobs, who also spoke at the service.

In an interview with the Minnesota Daily, Jacobs said that although Mondale had many accomplishments, he was someone who did not like to focus on himself.

“I knew [Mondale] for 16 years teaching and working with him,” Jacobs said. “I can’t remember ever hearing him talk about himself.”

Biden, before ending his remarks and inviting Mondale’s two surviving sons on stage, decided to speak about Mondale’s character.

“The highest compliment my grandfather used to say to a man or woman, was to say he’s a good man.” Biden concluded by saying, “Fritz Mondale was a good man.”