May 1, 2022 - Politics

"Giant in American political history": Biden remembers Walter Mondale


President Biden delivers remarks at the memorial service of former Vice President Walter Mondale in Minneapolis on May 1. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

President Biden remembered former Vice President Walter "Fritz" Mondale on Sunday as a "giant in American political history."

Driving the news: Speaking at a public memorial service in Minneapolis, the president lauded Mondale as a mentor and friend who, in addition to having a lasting impact on the nation, was one of the smartest, most decent men he had ever met.

  • "At every turn, Fritz reflected the light of this nation, who we are, where we can be," Biden said.

The big picture: Mondale, a former U.S. senator, ambassador to Japan and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, died in April 2021 at 93.

  • The Minnesota Democrat, who mentored countless politicians, has been credited with transforming the role of vice president to what we know it to be today.

What they're saying: Speakers at Sunday's public service, held on the University of Minnesota campus, remembered Mondale for his character, lasting legislative contributions, devotion to his wife, Joan, who died in 2014, and the good humor that peeked through his stoic "Norwegian manner."

  • "Walter Mondale was a giant of the Senate, a formidable vice president and a truth-telling presidential nominee of his party, who never stopped standing by principle," presidential biographer Jon Meacham said.
  • U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who got her start as an intern for Mondale, cited his landslide loss to President Ronald Reagan and willingness to step in and run as the Democrats' U.S. Senate nominee after Sen. Paul Wellstone died just days before the 2002 election as an example of his resilience.
  • "It wasn't just the decency he displayed on the national political stage that made him stand out," she said. "It was dignity in the wake of defeat."

The bottom line: For many, Mondale's mark went beyond politics and his role as a mentor to generations of Minnesota leaders. Sunday's speakers, including Biden, shared stories of how his friendship and counsel shaped their lives.

  • "I think that a lot of us who knew Mr. Mondale, we started out thinking of him as a hero. And we wound up daring to think of him as a friend," U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said.
  • "Ask them about his life and people will undoubtedly talk about his incredible record of service and accomplishment," she said. "But inevitably, you'll see them lean in and look around and they'll say, 'But here's the thing. I really felt like I mattered to him.'"

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