The book: George McGovern had a life and impact that went well beyond his defeat in the 1972 presidential election, but that defeat is nearly always what he is remembered for. The Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern tells the story of McGovern as senator, statesman, historian, and presidential nominee. Thomas J. Knock *82 uses McGovern’s private papers and in-depth interviews to provide a portrait of his life from his rustic boyhood in South Dakota through the high point of his political career at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Knock explores the pivotal moments in McGovern’s life, detailing his expansion of the school lunch program and his controversial criticism of the Vietnam War.
The author: Knock teaches at Southern Methodist University, specializing in foreign relations and 20th century history. He is also the author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order.
Opening lines: “Although their grandson would grow up to become a United States senator and run for president, Thomas Henry McGovern and Mary Love McGovern lived on the edge of poverty practically all their lives. In 1849, when he was five, Thomas and his parents had immigrated to America from Ireland, fleeing the Great Potato Famine that would force more than a million others to leave their homelands as well. The McGoverns were farm people.”
Review: Kirkus Review says, “Knock delivers an important reconsideration of a significant 20th-century politician.” Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers, calls it “a fascinating book about a man whose historical reputation ought not to be dominated by one landslide defeat.”