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WWHD:  Humphrey’s Greatness Examined and Celebrated

Date Published: 05/30/2011

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Lots of good stuff out there, and hopefully more will be coming throughout the year, on the legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey, who arguably has had more impact on the world, the nation and our state than any other individual in Minnesota's history. At a celebration on the centennial of his birth last Friday, I heard a speaker say that no white man in 20th Century America accomplished more for civil rights and human rights. I think that's true. And it was spine-tingling to hear former press aide Norman Sherman talk about being in the room when Humphrey laid out before Martin Luther King Jr. his plans for passage of civil rights legislation. An outstanding series of articles on Humphrey's legacy was produced last week by MinnPost's Iric Nathanson and Eric Black, including some hard-nosed analysis of his mistakes and shortcomings. I summarized Humphrey's legacy in a MinnPost commentary a few weeks earlier. And the New York Times came through with an outstanding op-ed Friday on "America's Forgotten Liberal," by Rick Perlstein. The author of a fine book on Nixon, Perlstein observes that Humphrey was far ahead of his time on civil rights, which most everybody knows. But Perlstein also offers the intriguing opinion that Humphrey now deserves vindication as the optimistic and practical progressive voice, who was foolishly dismissed by the "hip" radical left revolution of the 1960s, and then also dissed by the New Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s, who turned their backs on the working class and became "enamored with the alleged magic of the market.'' I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on Friday focusing on how Humphrey's progressive internationalist foreign policy could be renewed for the United States. And I think there's a lot to learn in these fractious days by asking "WWHD'' or "What Would Humphrey Do?'' Perlstein quotes Humphrey as saying that liberal policy must stress "common denomintors -- mutual needs, mutual wants, common hopes, the same fears,'' and that Humphrey had a conviction that pro-business and pro-labor policies were complementary.

- Dane Smith        

Posted in:
Business · Economic Justice

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