The sad news, which you have probably already heard, is that Walter Mondale passed away yesterday.
The good news is that we were lucky enough to have him with us for 93 and a quarter years, most of which he spent making Minnesota and the United States and the world better places, or at least better than they would have been without him.
I had the good fortune to know Mondale a little bit, which I view as one of the great honors of my own little life. He always returned my calls and granted me interviews when I needed one. I tried not to bother him often, but he always came through. Every quote he gave me had the ring of wisdom and truth.
Wisdom, I suppose, is in the eye of the observer (and, in the eye of this observer, Mondale epitomized it). But, even more so, as a truth-teller, Mondale and his partner in the White House, Jimmy Carter, were the truth-telling standard setters for their generation.
You can, and should, read longer, better obituaries about the accomplishments and contributions of this great American and lifelong Minnesotan. But I’ll just say that he not only exuded intelligence and a desire to leave the world better than he found it, but also personified the best (not the false) kind of humility.
I’m a little too moved by his passing to write any more than this. So I’ll just pass along a quote about the essence of his philosophy as a liberal public servant, which Mondale gave to the New York Times in 2010 when it prepared his advance obituary:
“I’m a liberal or a progressive,” Mondale said. “I didn’t use the ‘liberal’ word much, because I thought it carried too much baggage. But my whole life, I worked on the idea that government can be an instrument for social progress. We need that progress. Fairness requires it.”
I always felt a bit better about the world, knowing Mondale was in it.
If you feel like remembering Mondale in his prime, this link will get you his 1984 speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination.