THOUGHTS OF GEORGE McGOVERN & SHIRLEY CHISHOLM
By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
I’ve always been a sucker for irony, even more for a great, ironic one-liner. I’ll never forget one quip I heard from George McGovern, now, at 90, in hospice in his native South Dakota, and one from Shirley Chisholm. They both were as witty as they were wise. I saw them both in 1972.
I was 21 when I trained down to Miami to attend the Democratic National Convention. I remember well McGovern’s, for me, most devastating and funny line emerging from those days as the anti-Southeast Asian War candidate brought biting humor to that national tragedy in particular and as he showed he was wholly aware of the broader cultural implications of his candidacy.
His great line in a moment; first, hers.
I met, there, too, the late Shirley Chisholm. That was a special treat, as I had worked for her wonderful, important, tilt-at-windmills primary campaign. I recall standing by the door of an SRO meeting she addressed at the Miami convention. She told the room she’d found it idiotic that a Brooklyn congresswoman would be, as she had been, appointed to the House Agricultural Committee (on her view, to render her service weaker than it might otherwise be). Addressing a meeting of African-American elected officials and reporters, she told the crowd she got her committee assignment changed after she said she’d told then Speaker John McCormack, “You know, Ain’t too many farms in Brooklyn!” She brought down the house with that line.
When McGovern was nominated a reporter asked him what would be his first act were he to be elected president of the United States. Missing no beat the senator wryly said, “I’ll establish diplomatic relations with the Pentagon.”
Congratulations to two lives so well-lived.
Jonathan Wolfman blogs at http://open.salon.com/blog/jlw1.
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