Mondale on politics, then and now

Share this:
July 11, 2014
By: Bjorn Saterbak
Walter Mondale happily answers one of MPR News Editor-at-Large Gary Eichten's questions at Westminster Presbyterian Church during a town hall forum.
Photo by Bjorn Saterbak
Bjorn Saterbak

Former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke about politics, past, present and future, with Gary Eichten, MPR News Editor-at-Large, in front of hundreds Thursday at a Westminster Town Hall Forum. 

Mondale, a Minnesota native, was elected vice president of the United States in 1976, and he ran for president in 1984 on the Democratic ticket. During the conversation, a famous line was played from Mondale’s speech when he accepted the presidential nomination in which he said, “Mr. Regan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”

“I think I said the right thing. I don’t think I lost any votes on it. I think people more or less agree with that,” Mondale said. “I thought and think politics is weakened when you don’t have the courage to discuss the real issues.”

Tim Marx, a former intern of Mondale, attended the forum and remembered listening to his famous speech.

“I remember that as a moment in American history that was often kind of criticized,” Marx said. “Walter Mondale still is a politician and knows that to be able to have the opportunity to get anything done is to get elected.”

When addressing problems regarding education and the environment, Mondale said the creative use of government is required.

“I believe there’s a lot of problems in America that will not be solved unless we do it together through the wise use of our government,” Mondale said. “If you can’t use government creatively in that way, you’re not going to get it solved.”

During the conversation, Mondale stressed the importance of getting young people off the streets and more involved in their education.

“I think that there’s nothing more disheartening, nothing that’s more disturbing in my opinion than children that didn’t get a chance, that have failed and just can’t give back in their lives,” Mondale said. “Minnesota’s doing a lot better than most states on this, and I’m proud of that. But we’ve got a lot of problems, too.”

Mondale, who attends services at Westminster, said religion should not govern politics, but rather politics should be governed by the “great questions” and the “great principles that our faith teaches us.”

“I don’t believe that any politician should say that he’s talking through God. I think we all have, hopefully, our own faith, our own values,” Mondale said. “You never heard me claim that God told me to do something.”

On the issue of war, Mondale said to be cautious with American power and start thinking about more peaceful solutions before entering into war.

“Every day we get another suggestion for another war that will help us. Occasionally these efforts are necessary,” Mondale said. “But to the extent we can, the United States should be seen as trying to be a force (of peace) that offers our future to the next generation.”

Mondale said he foresees a woman taking on the role as president of the United States soon, but added that the argument is not about the novelty of having a female president.

“It’s about eliminating discrimination so that you can look at the talents of people," Mondale said. “We’re the only country that can do this. I’d say we get a C+ mark. One of the ways of gaining influence in this world is to let them see us (as an) open society.

Marx said he is impressed with how well-informed and up-to-date Mondale is with current issues.

“Some people will kind of let themselves get tired and rely on the same information (and) perspective of 30 years ago. That’s not Walter Mondale. He’s with it and he works at it,” Marx said.

Gene Merriam, president of the Freshwater Society and former state senator, said he appreciates the opportunity to hear Mondale speak.

“He’s at an age where you know he’s not going to be around forever. It’s great to see him in such good shape, physically and mentally,” Merriam said.

At the end of the conversation, Mondale expressed his optimism for America’s future.

“We’ve got wonderful leaders. It’s not perfect. It’s not utopia,” Mondale said. “Let’s face it, this is a wonderful country. This is a wonderful state. I couldn’t ask for better. It’s good to be alive.”