Monday, November 5, 2007

Stand Up, Keep Fighting!




On October 25th I attended a memorial service at the Longworth House Office Building for the late Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, and three staff members whose lives ended abruptly in a plane crash five years ago in Northern Minnesota. At that time Wellstone was in the final chapter of a heated campaign to keep his seat in the Senate for a third term. But a movement greater than just some politician and his family went down with that small aircraft on October 25, 2002.

Few political figures have the human ability Wellstone did to truly represent the people who elected him. Standing 5'5" tall, Wellstone was known as a fiery debater, defender of the weak, and strong voice for those who are not always heard in the discussions of America's welfare. He was a champion of laborers, the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, Native Americans, children, immigrants, environmentalists, and peace activists. A Democrat representing Minnesota, Wellstone refused to vote along party lines when his conscience told him otherwise. He was the only senator up for reelection in 2002 who voted against a US attack on Iraq. He concluded his October 11, 2002 speech with a genuine thank-you to his staff for not trying to convince him to vote otherwise. (Iraq Speech clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF2CLRZLK2E).

Wellstone emerged from Academia (Carleton College of Minnesota, more precisely, http://www.carleton.edu/) in 1990 to run against 2-term incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. His campaign had little funding (by the end he was outspent 7 to 1), he was largely unknown, and his was widely dubbed a long-shot campaign. Yet Wellstone's clever television advertisements (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbmMlTsKo30), and signature big green bus helped get his name out. And his compassion and honesty, apparent in even a simple greeting, helped gain him the support that won him the election.

Being in the presence of Senator Wellstone's friends and former staffers that day, I was once again reminded of my own brief exchanges with the senator who made such an impact on my own life. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, are my heroes because they symbolize real change through American politics--the way our democracy should be. Paul once said that politics is about improving people's lives. And I know he really truly felt so.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." His words.



For more information on the nonprofit organization carrying on the Wellstone movement go to: http://www.wellstone.org

2 comments:

Beth said...

Wow, that was such heartwarming blog post that I wish I had the chance to attend the memorial service. I wish there was more information about Wellstone in the news and government textbooks - from the classes I have taken I feel we are forced to believe that only money (that comes from catering to those interests) will help someone win an election etc. It is disconcerting to read a textbook and be told that fighting for what is "right" is difficult and often falls to the wayside with the politics of bills and such - but as you pointed out, Wellstone is an anomaly. Hopefully the textbooks will continue to be proven wrong...

Maren said...

Being from ND, Paul Wellstone (just a state away) had been an influential figure for me growing up. His determination, conviction, and integrity were signs of hope in politics often dominated by smear campaigns and interest groups. I remember the day of the plane crash and the reaction of those around me. Wellstone still remains an emblematic figure back home, and it is good to know he is remembered and honored here in DC as well. (Wish I could've been at this memorial service!)