(Truthdig) -- In the summer of 1972, when I was 15, I persuaded my parents to let me ride my bike down to the local George McGovern headquarters every morning to work on his campaign. McGovern, who died early Sunday morning in South Dakota at the age of 90, embodied the core values I had been taught to cherish. My father, a World War II veteran like McGovern, had taken my younger sister and me to protests in support of the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War. He taught us to stand up for human decency and honesty, no matter the cost. He told us that the definitions of business and politics, the categories of winners and losers, of the powerful and the powerless, of the rich and the poor, are meaningless if the price for admission requires that you sell your soul. And he told us something that the whole country, many years later, now knows: that George McGovern was a good man.
McGovern, even before he ran for president, held heroic stature for us. In 1970 he attached to a military procurement bill the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have required, through a cutoff of funding, a withdrawal of all American forces from Indochina. The amendment did not pass, although the majority of Americans supported it. McGovern denounced on the Senate floor the politicians who, by refusing to support the amendment, prolonged the war. We instantly understood the words he spoke. They were the words of a preacher.