Biography for Walter F. Mondale
Walter Frederick Mondale was thoroughly associated with the ideals of U.S. liberalism, which he advanced as a congress member and as vice president. His campaign for the presidency, however, took place during an era when most Americans were retreating toward conservatism and the popular image of Ronald Reagan. Mondale was born on January 5, 1928 in Ceylon, Minnesota, the son of a Methodist minister. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1951, he served in the U.S. Army. In 1956, Mondale earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota and established a practice in Minneapolis. While attending college, Mondale worked to help elect candidates for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. He continued these activities as an attorney and in 1960, after managing the successful reelection campaign of Governor Orville Freeman, was chosen to complete a term in the vacant office of state attorney general. Mondale then won election to two full terms in that office in 1960 and 1962. In 1964, when Senator Hubert H. Humphrey became vice president, Mondale was appointed to complete his term and once again won election to two full Senate terms on his own in 1966 and 1972. In Congress, Mondale established a solid record as a liberal Democrat. He supported busing to integrate public schools, the establishment of minimum wages and working conditions for migrant farmers, reform of the Indian reservation education system, and legislation designed to prohibit racial discrimination in housing. At first a strong supporter of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, Mondale changed his mind after the 1968 Tet Offensive. Jimmy Carter, the Democratic nominee for president in 1976, chose Mondale to be his vice presidential running mate. The two men established a close relationship during President Carter's administration. After the ticket's defeat in 1980 by Reagan, Mondale returned to Minnesota and prepared for a presidential run of his own in 1984. Following a difficult battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in the primaries, Mondale won the nomination and boldly chose a woman (the first), Geraldine Ferraro, to be his running mate. The Mondale-Ferraro ticket could not overcome the popularity of Reagan and his pledge of no tax increase. Instead of also pledging to avoid new taxes, Mondale stated that if desirable programs were not going to be harmed, taxes would have to be increased. Mondale claimed that he dared to tell Americans this because it was the responsibility of a leader to be honest: "Taxes will go up. Let's tell the truth. It must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did." Americans were in no mood to listen to such words from a "tax and spend" Democrat. Mondale carried only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia in the general election. After this defeat, he retired from politics and returned to practicing law in Minnesota. During the 1990s, however, he returned to Washington, D.C. and served as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Japan from 1993 to 1996.