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Statements on the Passing of Senator George McGovern

Former U.S. Senator George McGovern, a lifelong champion of global hunger issues, died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Sunday, October 21. He was 90 years old. A tireless advocate for the hungry poor in both the United States and throughout the world, Sen. McGovern’s leadership and passion for increasing global food security were truly extraordinary. Feed the Future honors his legacy and joins leaders across the U.S. Government in commemorating his nearly six decades of public service. 

The following is a statement from U.S. President Barack Obama on the passing of Senator George McGovern. You can view the original statement on the White House website.

George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved. He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe. When the people of South Dakota sent him to Washington, this hero of war became a champion for peace. And after his career in Congress, he became a leading voice in the fight against hunger. George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family.  

The following is a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the passing of Senator George McGovern. You can view the original statement on the USDA website. Learn more about McGovern on the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s tribute page.

Simply put, Senator George McGovern spent his life standing up for others. He honorably defended our nation during a time of war. He was a tremendous advocate for his home state of South Dakota and for all of rural America. He championed our efforts as a nation to help hungry people, especially children, around the world, leading the way on U.S. food assistance efforts that carry on today under his name and that of his friend, former Senator Bob Dole. As we honor Senator McGovern’s life, I know that his legacy will impact millions of people in the years to come – from the smallest South Dakota towns that he knew and loved, to countries in every corner of the globe.

The following is a statement from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on the passing of Senator George McGovern. You can view the original statement on the USAID website.

Senator George McGovern was a tremendous leader in the global movement to end hunger and malnutrition, and his partnership and friendship to the U.S. Agency for International Development will be irreplaceable. Senator McGovern’s ties to our Agency date back to his appointment by President John F. Kennedy as the first Director of Food for Peace in 1961. He noted that this time at USAID was key to making him a lifelong champion of combating hunger, a commitment that has shaped global institutions and impacted millions of people around the world.   

In his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, he sponsored numerous health and nutrition programs and served as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. In addition to fighting hunger in the United States, he also teamed up with Senator Robert Dole to successfully pass the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which provides school meals to millions of children around the world each year. He played an instrumental role in helping establish the UN World Food Programme and was appointed as the UN’s first Global Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001. He was recognized for his great leadership as co-Laureate of the World Food Prize in 2008.   

Senator McGovern’s tireless dedication to ending hunger and malnutrition helped encourage a renewed focus on food security around the world, including President Obama’s global initiative Feed the Future. Across more than six decades of public service, he inspired countless others with his leadership, friendship, and commitment, always taking the time to mentor and coach young people.

Senator McGovern will be greatly missed, but his legacy has left us inspired and reenergized to carry his mission forward. 

The following is a statement from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome on the passing of Senator George McGovern. You can view the original statement on the USUN Rome website. 

Former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome George McGovern died on Sunday at the age of 90. George McGovern’s dedication to combating global hunger helped drive food and agriculture development around the world. The loss of this important global champion of the poor is particularly felt here at the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, where he served as Ambassador from 1998-2001. 

Ambassador David Lane, who attended Mr. McGovern’s 90th birthday celebration this past July, noted “Senator McGovern lived a rich and influential life.  His deep commitment to end hunger was a force for good throughout his life, from his early days as a public servant to his later years, when he continued to be a powerful advocate for the world’s poor and hungry.”

Mr. McGovern was raised in a South Dakota farm community during the Depression and was a decorated bomber pilot in Italy during World War II. The poverty he viewed as a child and in wartime Italy shaped his lifetime commitments to promoting peace and feeding the world.

He served in the U.S. Congress from 1957 to 1961 and the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981. In the early 1960s, he formed the U.S. Food for Peace program, and helped create the World Food Program in 1963.

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which he created in conjunction with Senator Robert Dole, has fed 22 million children in 41 countries. In 2008, the senators were awarded the World Food Prize in honor of this program and “their inspired, collaborative leadership that has encouraged a global commitment to school feeding and enhanced school attendance and nutrition for millions of the world’s poorest children, especially girls.”

For the past ten years, the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Romehas honored his accomplishments through the annual McGovern Lecture at the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. 

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