The past week the people in my community have been consumed by a combination of Derek Chauvin’s trial for the death of George Floyd, along with the death of Daunte Wright at a traffic stop, just days ago. People have flown in to testify at the trial. Others have come to participate at nightly protests over the death of Daunte Wright. Some have come to give support and encouragement. While others have simply worked at stirring up, an already stirred up and stressed out public.
Then tonight, news that former Vice President Walter Mondale died. For a moment, there is a pause in everything else, as we remember a good and decent man. Mondale was a fixture in Minnesota politics from the time he was a young man. Knowing that he had grown up in a Methodist parsonage, in the far southern edge of the state, only increased my appreciation for him. Many of my ministry colleagues spent time in that parsonage, raising their families, while serving the Elmore, United Methodist Church, located on Mondale street – aptly named after its former resident.
Had Mondale possessed the charisma of a Ronald Regan, he might have been president. But, his type of politics was not made for live TV. Honesty and decency don’t always transform into votes. As Vice President under Jimmy Carter, though, Mondale did transform the office, from a frustrating role of playing second fiddle, into one of concrete and purposeful action.
After leaving office, Mondale continued to weigh in on matters of public concern. He was often interviewed by local press. One clip has him saying, “I like to see human problems solved.”
I looked forward to his occasional editorials, like the one last summer. In the midst of George Floyd’s death, and protests which followed, he wrote, “We have won agreement on a simple and profound idea proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence: All people are created equal. The battle for civil rights is a journey, not an end point. Each generation is tasked with the hard work of serving in the great fight for justice.”
The Derek Chauvin trial is now in the hands of the jury. Whatever the verdict ultimately is, the civil rights movement will continue. A great part of that heritage, is the work of Walter Mondale, who never stopped working for justice.