Center for American Progress

Statement of John Podesta on the Death of Senator Eugene McCarthy

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Senator Eugene McCarthy.

He led a distinguished career in public service, marked by his unflappable integrity and wisdom. His quirkiness was as original as his poetry and his wit was as sharp as his intellect. As a junior Congressman, he saw injustice in the red-baiting of Joe McCarthy, and sought to right it without regard for the political consequences. As a writer, he captured the spirit and decency of American democracy with great eloquence and style. As a Senator and national candidate, he transformed the face of American politics and inspired me, and a generation, to enter politics.

As a young college student in 1968, I saw our country divided by a war, uncertain of our future, and searching for somebody to step up and speak truth to power about the critical issue of our time. For me and many others, Eugene McCarthy was that somebody and I soon found myself campaigning door to door, talking to farmers, teachers and people from all walks of life about my candidate. He stood up and challenged a sitting president on principle. His candidacy transformed disorganized dissent into a movement. His words transformed the public’s fear into a force for change.

Although he may now be gone, his life’s lessons will live on and continue to inspire generations to come. He will be missed.

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