Politics and Government

Mondale remembered as effective policymaker, public servant

Mondale speaks during a birthday celebration for his 90th birthday.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale speaks during a birthday celebration for his 90th birthday at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in January 2018.
Tom Baker for MPR News 2018

Former Vice President Walter Mondale is being remembered as a public servant with wisdom and wit as well as an effective policymaker. Former President Jimmy Carter says his vice president “was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world.”

Minnesota's current U.S. senators also are mourning the man who preceded them in the Senate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says Mondale taught her that “getting things done for people” was an essential part of leadership. And Sen. Tina Smith says Mondale provided a “strong, compassionate, clear, and fearless voice to the world" throughout his life.

Reaction to the death of Walter Mondale, who died Monday in Minneapolis at age 93:

Former President Jimmy Carter

President Joe Biden

Jill and I had the opportunity to speak to Fritz and his family over the weekend, to reflect on the years of friendship we shared, and how much we learned from and leaned on each other.

When I arrived in the United States Senate in 1973, Walter Mondale was one of the first people to greet me. Through his work as a Senator, he showed me what was possible. He may have been modest and unassuming in manner, but he was unwavering in his pursuit of progress; instrumental in passing laws like the Fair Housing Act to prevent racial discrimination in housing, Title IX to provide more opportunities for women, and laws to protect our environment. There have been few senators, before or since, who commanded such universal respect.

When President Obama asked me to consider being his Vice President, Fritz was my first call and trusted guide. He not only took my call, he wrote me a memo. It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service.

And Joan did the same for Jill, helping her carve out a role for herself as our nation’s Second Lady.

He not only created a path for himself, he helped others do the same. Walter Mondale was the first presidential nominee of either party to select a woman as his running mate, and I know how pleased he was to be able to see Kamala Harris become Vice President.

In accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, he described the values he was taught to live by: “to play by the rules; to tell the truth; to obey the law; to care for others; to love our country; to cherish our faith.”

As a Senator, an Ambassador, a Vice President, and a candidate for President, he lived and spread those values. 

Former President Bill Clinton

Vice President Kamala Harris

Vice President Mondale was so generous with his wit and wisdom over the years. I was able to speak with him just a few days ago and thank him for his service and his steadfastness. I will miss him dearly, and my heart is with his family today. I hope they find comfort in knowing that he is with his beloved wife, Joan, and daughter, Eleanor, now — and that his legacy will life on in all of us.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar remembers Walter Mondale.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa

Former Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

Former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak

David Lillehaug, personal aide, 1983-84

Most who remark on Walter Mondale’s life focus on his legacy of truth-telling, law-abiding, and peace-keeping. And well they should. His legacy also includes inspiring the next generations of Minnesota leaders. Mark Dayton, Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith, Steve Simon, Jake Sullivan, and many others felt called to public service by working with Mr. Mondale. They and countless University students and fellows will tell you that he was exceedingly generous with his time, wit, and candid advice.

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota

Larry Jacobs remembers Walter Mondale.

Teaching and co-hosting public programs with Mr. Mondale has been the pinnacle of my career. His deep Democratic loyalties are not what has stood out to me. Rather, it’s his unyielding curiosity to better understand public policies and see America achieve prosperity for all.

Norman Ornstein, congressional scholar

Hamse Wafa, deputy commissioner, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

MPR News reporter Peter Cox contributed to this story.

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