Ambassador George McGovern was born in Avon, South Dakota, on July 19, 1922, the son of a Methodist clergyman. Raised in Mitchell, South Dakota, he was enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University as a student in 1940 until World War II intervened. As the pilot of a B-24 bomber based in Italy, he flew 35 missions and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war he resumed his education, graduating from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1946. He then earned a Ph.D. in history and government at Northwestern University and returned to DWU as professor of history from 1950 to 1955.
In 1956, McGovern was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1960, when President John F. Kennedy appointed him first Director of the U.S. Food for Peace Program and Special Assistant to the President. In this post, he made the first offer of U.S. assistance that opened the way for the launching of the World Food Program. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, 1968 and 1974. He served on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Joint Economic Committee. He was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, which developed the highly regarded Dietary Goals for the American People.
In 1972, Senator McGovern was the Democratic nominee for President. In 1976, he was appointed by President Gerald Ford as delegate to the 31st session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. President Carter subsequently appointed him as a delegate to the United Nations in 1978 for the Special Session on Disarmament.
After leaving the Senate in 1980, McGovern was a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including Columbia University, Northwestern University, Duke University, Cornell University and the University of Berlin. He served as President of the Middle East Policy Council from 1991 to 1998, when President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. When he left this post in October 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named him the honorary United Nations Global Ambassador for Hunger.
McGovern’s noteworthy public service career has been recognized through many honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by President Clinton in 2000 in recognition of public service and humanitarianism. The author of eight books and numerous articles for leading journals and magazines, McGovern has lectured at more than 1,200 colleges and universities around the world.
McGovern has been married to the former Eleanor Stegeberg of South Dakota since 1943. The McGoverns have five children and ten grandchildren.