I, strangely enough, have favorite years in American history.
One such year is 1968 when Senator Eugene McCarthy (not to be confused with Sen. Joe "Witchhunt" McCarthy) pulled out a surprising 42% of the vote in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary against sitting president Lyndon Baines Johnson. 1968 was a turbulent year in this country. The Chicago Convention and the riots that followed. The assassinations of both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And of course that unbelievable moment in March when due to the shock of Senator McCarthy's strong showing in New Hampshire, President Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.
Former Minnesota senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy died last night at the age of 89.
There are certain people I admire for their ability to continue after loss. Adlai Stevenson challenged the great General Eisenhower not once, but twice and still continued on to the 1960 primary and to serve in an ambassadorship to the United Nations. Eugene McCarthy ran for president a remarkable five times and even continued to run for public office into the early nineties.
There are images burned into my memory that even as a recollection give me goosebumps. One such photograph is from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Entering through an old service entrance surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards, Eugene McCarthy had ducked down to miss being hit by a shoe that you can see has hit the wall to the right of him. It is an amazing still and one that represents the chaos of Chicago.
Today I would like to commend Mr. McCarthy for his service to this nation in a time of unparalleled confusion. His anti-war message was a a wake up call to the Democratic Party, pushed Senator Robert Kennedy into the race, and I think singlehandedly brought the end of the Johnson administration. Because I have very little use for the 36th President of the United States, other than an unbelievable amount of respect for his pushing and passage of the civil rights legislation and recognition of Carl Sandburg, had I been there that 1968 night when the New Hampshire numbers rolled in, I would have cheered for Senator McCarthy.
Eugene Joseph McCarthy
1916 - 2005