“im A Born Optimist”


Van Dyk listened to Humphrey’s end of the conversation. “I was hoping to hear Humphrey really give that son-of-a-bitch the kind of dressing down he had coming to him.” Van Dyk could hear Roosevelt wind up his plea by saying, “You’ve got to save me.”

Humphrey replied, “I’ll go to bat for you, Frank,” and hung up the phone.

“What the hell…,” Van Dyk began. Then he shrugged.

“After all he’s done for me,” said Humphrey, “it’s the least I can do.”

For years, he represented the nation’s hopefulness, unalloyed. Millions of people sensed that Humphrey was living proof that it was possible in a cutthroat world to think the best of everyone and everything-and still survive. During the period of his realistic eligibility for the Presidency, the American people chose John F. Kennedy, plainly a tougher politician, one with the instinct for the jugular that Humphrey lacked; Lyndon Johnson, more calculating, more devious; Richard Nixon, whose attitude toward “enemies” real and imagined was thoroughly documented during the Watergate years; and Jimmy Carter, whose single-mindedness and ambition led him past better-known opponents to the Presidency.

With one or more of these traits, Hubert Humphrey might have become President of the United States.

He did not become President. What he did become, through his indomitably optimistic spirit and the astonishing legislative record that he compiled, was a unique national resource.