by Perry Groten | KELOLAND | Monday, Apr. 12, 2021, Updated: Tuesday, Apr. 13
A retired Sioux Falls school teacher is making sure future generations learn about South Dakota’s most famous politician. The former John Harris Elementary fourth grade teacher has written a book about the late-Senator George McGovern.
Sarah Herbert’s fascination with Senator George McGovern started during her childhood.
“I remember seeing him in the Vikings Day parade that my parents had taken me to and he waved at me and I never did get to meet him,” Herbert said.
Now Herbert wants South Dakota school kids to meet the man who inspired her. She’s written a children’s book called “George McGovern: South Dakota’s Legendary Legislator.” Most biographies written about the 1972 Democratic nominee for president are for adult readers. But Herbert was aiming for a much younger audience.
“And I thought, you know, I ought to be able to put together something for a fourth grader and so I did a lot of research and read a lot of his books and taking books this thick, condensing it down into what would a fourth grader, what would keep their attention,” Herbert said.
The McGovern Library, on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, was excited to hear about Herbert’s writing project.
“This was something different and so to see George through the eyes of children potentially was really fun, yeah,” Dakota Wesleyan University Archivist Laurie Langland said.
The library provided photos to Herbert to use in her book.
“And we could work over email because I scan the images, I could email to her and then it was just working back and forth making sure she had what she needed,” Langland said.
Herbert says McGovern has a natural connection to kids today.
“His biggest accomplishment that kids probably would appreciate is how much of an effect he had on getting a school lunch program available to all children, no matter what their income level,” Herbert said.
Herbert wanted to steer clear of politics while writing her book, so the story is a non-partisan account of McGovern’s life.
“It’s not a debate on Republicans versus Democrats, but it’s about his life, where he started and where he ended up, and just the simple fact that he didn’t give up after he didn’t win the presidency,” Herbert said.
The book includes McGovern’s harrowing flight as a World War II bomber pilot during a mission that led to his being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“All at once, the engine caught fire”
Vivid details of McGovern’s life that capture the attention and imagination of young readers.
“I tried to keep it in short segments with lots of pictures to keep their attention because, oftentimes, you get when they were born and when they died, and there’s not a whole lot in-between,” Herbert said.
Herbert hopes teachers will share her book with students as a resource to learn more about South Dakota’s past.
“It goes perfectly for fourth graders studying South Dakota history and it should be something they can read or the teacher could read aloud because it’s short enough that they could do it in one sitting,” Herbert said.
Herbert is concerned that McGovern’s impact on South Dakota history will be forgotten without engaging children into the narrative. She hopes young students will be as inspired as she was as a girl, once they read her book about the man who waved to her during a parade, those many years ago.
“And, I want them to be able to dream big and realize what a role model he could be for them in their lives, too,” Herbert said.
Herbert is planning to hold a public book-signing sometime later this spring. Her book is available at book stores in Sioux Falls and at Dakota Wesleyan, plus Amazon.
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