NORTHFIELD, Minn. August 8, 2012 — Will 2012 be another triumphant year with another homegrown son on the Vice Presidential ballot? It could be, according to the pundits.
After all, as Garrison Keillor says about Minnesota:
“Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
Two of our above average children have been elected Vice-President of the United States. Hubert H. Humphrey who was on the ticket with Lyndon B. Johnson in November of 1964. Then jumping ahead to 1977 when Minnesota landed another Vice-President, Walter Mondale.
What legacy did Humphrey and Mondale leave?
Hubert H. Humphrey
Humphrey is a household name here in Minnesota. Forget that he was born in South Dakota: we claim him here.
This week former President Bill Clinton was among the dignitaries who helped dedicate a memorial to the late Hubert H. Humphrey, former vice president, senator and mayor. A distinctive 7 foot bronze statue unveiled at the Capital Mall in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The public value of Humphrey cannot be easily summarized here. Two hallmarks must suffice.
Humphrey’s consistently cheerful and upbeat demeanor led to his nickname “The Happy Warrior.” He was called this by many of his Senate colleagues and political journalists. His ability to negotiate and navigate politics to create public policy is an accomplishment to be emulated. The public affairs school here is named after him.
As for policy leadership, his list of contributions is long. Civil rights may be at the top of the list. And, if you know a Peace Corps volunteer, thank Humphrey.
“I introduced the first Peace Corps bill in 1957. It did not meet with much enthusiasm. Some traditional diplomats quaked at the thought of thousands of young Americans scattered across their world. Many senators, including liberal ones, thought the idea was silly and unworkable. Now, with a young president urging its passage, it became possible and we pushed it rapidly through the Senate.
It is fashionable now to suggest that Peace Corps Volunteers gained as much or more, from their experience as the countries they worked. That may be true, but it ought not demean their work. They touched many lives and made them better.”
The Education of a Public Man, Hubert H. Humphrey
Until recently, a Minneapolis airport was named after Humphrey; before it was officially changed to ‘Terminal 2’. Luckily, we can be reminded of good deeds by the new bronze statue of our former Vice-President.
Mondale is still making his name as an elder statesman, ambassador, and famous Minnesotan. He gave homage to Humphrey at the August 4, 2012 statue dedication.
Now 84 years old, he rose to national attention when Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination for president in 1976, and he chose Mondale as his running mate. The ticket was narrowly elected on November 2, 1976, and Mondale was inaugurated as Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1977.
Coming into visibility in the 1970’s, Mondale came of age as a leader in the era of the media.
One of Mondale’s quips is:
“Modern politics today requires a mastery of television. I’ve never really warmed up to television and, in fairness to television, it’s never warmed up to me.”
Under President Carter, Mondale made several notable contributions. He traveled extensively throughout the nation and the world advocating the administration’s foreign policy. He was the first vice president to have an office in the White House, establishing the concept of “activist Vice President”.
Mondale is said to have started the tradition of weekly lunches with the president, which continues as a practice by the VP to this day. More importantly, he expanded the vice president’s role from that of figurehead to presidential advisor, full-time participant, and troubleshooter for the administration.
Subsequent vice presidents, some better than others, have followed this model in the administrations in which they serve say political observers.
So, Mr. Romney, we have a pool of above average folks here in Minnesota, and two shining examples of Vice-Presidents.
Keep that in mind when you select your running mate.
Read more from Donna Rae Scheffert at Washington Times Communities and Online Leadership Tools. Donna Rae is an award winning writer, consultant, planner, facilitator, and coach. One Minnesota organization gave her a coveted ‘Futures’ award. Another named her the 2002 Outstanding Faculty member. She has co-authored five books and numerous articles. She is the founder of the consulting firm Leadership Tools.
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