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Former V.P. Mondale still has it

By Staff | Feb 7, 2016

Register Editor Chuck Hunt, left, and former Elmore resident and former vice president of the United States Walter ‘Fritz’ Mondale had a chance to talk about his days in Elmore after Mondale’s speech at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention. Photo courtesy Mark Wilmes, Tyler Tribute

Former vice president of the United States Walter Mondale has still got it.

Despite being 88 years old and long gone from the national stage, Mondale still drew a huge crowd at the 149th Annual Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention held in Bloomington Jan. 27-30.

Besides the hundreds and hundreds of journalists in attendance there was also the current governor, state auditor, secretary of state, state attorney, several state senators and representatives and a few other Mondale admirers and fans.

Those journalists included editors, reporters and publishers from around the state. And, that included yours truly.

I’m old enough to remember Mondale throughout his whole career, from state attorney general to U.S. Senator to vice president and his ill-fated quest to be president.

But, there were plenty of young people in the audience and at least one of them had to confess she had no idea who Walter Mondale was, but she had “Googled” his name to find out.

Good for her. Maybe when she did that she noticed that Walter Frederick “Fritz” Mondale was born in Ceylon, Minnesota, and raised in Elmore, Minnesota, where he graduated from Elmore High School.

Mondale himself made reference to it in his speech at the noon luncheon on Friday, Jan. 29. He made a veiled reference to the Elmore Eye newspaper as he told about his fascination about the press even from an early age.

In his speech he urged newspapers to continue to fight for the public’s right to know, and that newspapers needed to continue to keep people informed of what is going on in their community.

Especially in small towns, where the local newspaper is the only place to find out everything going on in town.

The former 42nd vice president of the U.S. also still had it when it came to making a speech with some political comment.

But, this time his remarks were about the three things he still wishes could be changed.

One was the current tone of politics and the fact that there is so much division between the parties.

When he was in the senate, he said, they debated the issues, but then they forged ahead with legislation.

Now, there is no compromise and not much gets done without a lot of bitterness.

He mentioned the debates. When Mondale debated Sen. Robert Dole in the vice presidential candidate debate, he says the two kept to the issues, mainly, and there wasn’t much nastiness or disparaging remarks.

And, he says, he and Bob Dole, despite their opposite political views, remain good friends to this day.

Mondale also mentioned debating Ronald Reagan when the two were running against each other for president in 1984. Reagan was a masterful debater, Mondale admitted, because he easily entertained the audience with his wit and charm.

There wasn’t any nastiness.

Not so much this year, Mondale said, adding that this hostile environment in politics needs to change.

His second point followed along with this first one, and was that there is too much money involved in campaigning these days.

His race for the senate cost $700,000 and he thought that was extravagant. Nowadays it is $25 million or more.

And much, much more for a presidential race.

It causes too much potential for special interest groups to buy an election he says, and it needs to change.

His third item was the environment and how much we are damaging it.

Mondale says that protecting the environment needs to be the No. 1 issue soon, before disaster strikes the world in the future.

After his speech I had a chance to visit with the Elmore native son and we reminisced about “hanging out together” one day in 2014 before and during the Elmore All-School Reunion.

Mondale still has many fond memories of his life in Elmore.

And visiting with him reinforced my first impressions back from that summer day in Elmore.

Our former vice president is simply one very nice guy. Unpretentious, caring, interested in people and an all around decent guy.

Too nice to sling any mud at his political opponents. And perhaps that is why he wasn’t elected president.

Nice guys finish last, don’t they?