WASHINGTON — President Biden on Sunday paid tribute to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, praising “one of the greatest giants of American history” who inspired him and many other Americans to believe in public service even in troubled times.
Mr. Biden traveled to Minneapolis for a memorial service that was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic in honor of Mr. Mondel, a five-decade-old friend and colleague from their days in the Senate, died in his sleep in April 2021 at the age of 93.
“It is up to each of us to reflect that light that Fritz was swirling around, to reflect the goodness and grace of Fritz, and the way he made people feel, no matter who you are,” said Mr. Biden, using the nickname of the former vice president. “Just imagine what our nation could achieve if we followed Fritz’s example of honor, decency, and integrity, just serving the common good. Nothing would be—nothing, nothing, nothing—out of our reach.”
was mr. Biden’s second memorial service in just five days, after one last week for former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright at Washington National Cathedral. but mr. Mondel had no desire for his body to be in the state or to be remembered at a grand celebration in the nation’s capital, preferring a simpler, more modest monument in his home state of Minnesota.
There was, in fact, the perfect “Minnesota cute” quality of the event. The praisers talked about Mr. Mondel’s Norwegian stoicism, Midwestern values, and dedication to helping others. The marching band from his dear University of Minnesota played “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Lillian Hochman, a young actress from Minnesota, “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”, Mondel’s favorite.
Mr. Mondale was among the Democratic senators who encouraged Mr. Biden takes his seat after winning the 1972 election despite the death of the candidate’s wife and daughter in a tragic car accident. The two went on to serve together in the Senate for four years and for another four years when Mr. Mondale was Vice President under Jimmy Carter. Mr. Mondel and mr. Biden was a model for a different generation of Washington Democrats who are now mostly absent from the scene.
While serving under the leadership of mr. Carter from 1977 to 1981, mr. Mondel set a standard for the vice presidency that later benefited Mr. Biden. Rather than just a decorative figure whose main function was to check the health of the chief every morning, as was most of his predecessors, Mr. Mondel seeks to make the Vice President a central figure in Mr. Carter management.
He negotiated to be the first vice president to have an office in the West Wing, down the hall and close to the Oval Office, and insisted he would have a voice on most major issues today. his note to mr. Outlining his extended view of the job, Carter was a model for most if not all of the vice presidents who followed — including Mr. Biden, who consulted her when he took office under President Barack Obama.
Mr. Mondel also paved the way for his current old employer. During his 1984 presidential campaign, he chose Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major party ticket for vice president, although her bid failed. Thirty-six years later, Vice President Kamala Harris has broken that glass ceiling as part of Mr. Biden ticket.
but mr. Mondale’s campaign in 1984 marked a low point for the Democrats as he lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan, capturing only Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Desperate Democrats, including Mr. Biden, who ran for president unsuccessfully after four years, saw the campaign as a model for what not to do, most notably Mr. Mondel’s frank admission that he will raise taxes. Mr. Mondel took his defeat with dignity and later went on to serve as ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota who has described herself as a “Mundell geek,” noted that Mr. Mondel set an example not only in victory but in defeat.
“None of it was easy,” she said. “But when Fritz faced massive setbacks, he didn’t step down, he stood up. He didn’t crawl under his desk or hide from sight, he simply found a different way to serve.”
There are safer cars, cleaner rivers, children who won’t go hungry, and women and black Americans who will have more opportunities because of Mr. Mondel.
“He has not stopped believing in this country,” said the master. Mesham said. He never stopped fighting for his people. Fortunately, he did not stop defending democracy. He didn’t stop and didn’t stop, in his memory, we shouldn’t.”