Reminiscing and “What Ifs....”

By Vice President Louise Sundin


When Vice-President Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, I was taken back to an event that I was lucky enough to be a part of in l984.  That summer, Vice-President and Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale invited all the leaders of the national women’s organizations and all the well-known “women libbers” like Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, and other feminists to a get together.


I was there because I was chair of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Women’s Rights Committee.  It was cheaper for the AFT to have me attend the Mondale meeting than pay someone higher up the power ladder to fly out from DC.  So, there sat little old me, the “Pollyanna from the Prairie” as I was known then in the AFT.  Heady stuff . . . in the same room at the Leamington Hotel sitting around the same table with all my ‘Sheroes’! 


V-P Mondale and his wife, Joan, asked the women leaders what their reaction would be if he picked a woman to be his running mate as his V-P candidate.  There was a lot of enthusiastic response from several of the big names.


However, one voice in a very southern drawl, was Ann Richards who would become Governor of Texas in 1991.   The outspoken Democratic leader said, “Well, all I know is the Texas good old boys won’t part with a dime if there’s a woman on the ticket!”. 


Bella Abzug asked me, since I was sitting next to her, what Ann said.  I spent much of the meeting under Bella’s big hat repeating what women said since she couldn’t hear well at all.


Mondale went around the table asking everyone to express whether he should pick a woman and why.  When it came to me, I had told myself early in the meeting that I should keep my rookie mouth shut.  But, I couldn’t help myself.  I said since the quiet Scandinavian Vice-President was about as exciting as a plate of four kinds of white food, that he should do something exciting and historical to generate drama.  Uff da, Joan was not amused!


So, on July 12, 1984, Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.  Did it make a difference?  Not enough to counter his revelation that “If Reagan gets to be President, he will raise your taxes and so will I.  He won’t tell you, I just did!”  That might have had something to do with the campaign.  Remember?


Think of what a different country we would be now if Minnesotans Hubert Humphrey, the Happy warrior, and Walter Mondale, the principled minister’s son, both had become president.  Worthy of thoughtful speculation during our preventative COVID quarantine.




175 Aurora Ave, St Paul, MN 55103

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