A fond and respectful farewell to George McGovern - war hero, peace activist, prairie populist, fierce and tireless truth-teller, "the most decent man in the Senate," in Robert Kennedy's words, who stunned his bellicose colleagues when they refused to end the Vietnam War by charging they were responsible for "these blasted and broken boys" who had come home, adding, "I'm tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to fight...This chamber reeks of blood." With the great Johnny Rivers singing what became the elegiac (and still timely) theme song for McGovern's 1972 Presidential campaign, which gave us hope.
When the Senate failed to pass the bill cutting off funds for the Vietnam War:
“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave,” he said. “This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval [hospitals] and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.”
From his acceptance speech:
"From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward."