President Joe Biden on Sunday honored former Vice President Walter Frederick “Fritz” Mondale as one of America’s “great giants” during a deeply personal memorial service address in Minneapolis.
Mondale, who served as vice president under Democratic President Jimmy Carter, died at 93 in April of last year.
“There are two ways of spreading light – to be a candle or the mirror that reflects it. Fritz was both the candle and the mirror in my view,” Biden said during the memorial service at the University of Minnesota.
Throughout his remarks, the President recalled his decades-long friendship with Mondale as he urged the nation to follow the late Minnesotan’s example. “He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people,” Biden said.
In a particularly poignant moment, the President recalled the tragic car accident in which his then-wife Neilia Hunter Biden and daughter Naomi died, and talked about how Mondale and his wife, the late Joan Mondale, were there for him.
“They helped me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain,” Biden said.
Mondale had served as Carter’s No. 2 between 1977 and 1981, but his single term as vice president came to an end when Ronald Reagan and his running mate, George H. W. Bush, defeated Carter and Mondale in 1980 – a loss that Democrats wouldn’t recover from until 1992, when Bill Clinton helped the party win back control of the White House.
Still, Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination himself in 1984, and helped make history by naming US Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate – the first woman nominated to the presidential ticket of a major US political party. Mondale ultimately lost to the incumbent Reagan.
In an email to former staffers obtained by CNN at the time of his death, Mondale acknowledged in a moving message that his “time has come.”
“Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight,” Mondale wrote.
“Joe in the White House certainly helps,” he added in reference to the President. “I always knew it would be okay if I arrived some place and was greeted by one of you!”