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Biden Calls Walter Mondale 'Among The Greatest Of All Americans' At Memorial Service

Originally published May 1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — President Joe Biden gathered with other dignitaries in Minneapolis on Sunday to remember former Vice President Walter Mondale at a memorial service that his family delayed for a year due to the pandemic.

Mondale died in April 2021 at age 93. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden wanted to attend the memorial because he had "an important personal relationship" with Mondale.

During Sunday's service at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium, Biden described Mondale as a "one of the great giants in American history" and "among the greatest of all Americans."

"He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people, especially the people of Minnesota," Biden said. "He loved you all, and you loved him back."

The president said they shared a special bond. Both had been senators and vice presidents, and both lost a beloved child to brain cancer: Eleanor Mondale died in 2011 at age 51, and Beau Biden died in 2015 at age 46.

Walter Mondale And Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale in 1976 (credit: CBS)

"They were there for Jill and me and my family," Biden said. "I'll never forget how Fritz affected so much love and light into our family, again at our darkest moment."

Other speakers for the event at the University of Minnesota included Gov. Tim Walz, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the university's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where Mondale taught for several years. Presidential historian Jon Meacham delivered the keynote eulogy.

"There are children in America today who will not go hungry because of Fritz Mondale. There are Black people in America today who can vote and work and live more freely and fairly because of Fritz Mondale. There are women in America today who see no limit to their dreams because of Fritz Mondale," Meacham said.

Sen. Klobuchar said Mondale was instrumental in urging her to run for office.

"He was my mentor from the very beginning of this journey, he taught me a lot. But maybe the most amazing gift he gave me was the gift of resilience, because you see, it wasn't just the decency he displayed on the national political stage that made him stand out. It was the dignity he brought home in the wake of defeat," Klobuchar said.

Biden could be seen wiping away tears as a young actress sang "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie." The university's marching band closed the service with the "Minnesota Rouser" fight song. Mondale was a graduate of the university and its law school, and the law school building is named after him.

President Biden wipes away tears at Walter Mondale's memorial service
(credit: CBS)

His son, Ted Mondale, said it was exactly the service his dad would have wanted. He didn't want anything fancy, like laying in state at the U.S. Capitol. He wanted to be with friends, telling stories in Minnesota.

Mondale followed a trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, serving as Minnesota attorney general before replacing Humphrey in the U.S. Senate. He served as vice president under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

And he lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections ever, to Ronald Reagan in 1984. He carried only Minnesota and the District of Columbia after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won. But he made history in that race by picking Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, of New York, as his running mate, becoming the first major-party nominee to put a woman on the ticket

Mondale remained a revered liberal elder, with a long list of accomplishments, and went on to serve as ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton. But he wasn't done with politics. In 2002, at 74, he was drafted to run for the Senate again after Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash shortly before the election. Mondale lost the abbreviated race to Republican Norm Coleman.

Biden paid tribute to Mondale at the time of his death last year, saying: "There have been few senators, before or since, who commanded such universal respect. ... It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service."

Walter Mondale is survived by his sons, Ted and Will. His wife Joan died in 2014.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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