Paul Wellstone

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Winning Nomination

Paul and Sheila Wellstone transformed us as they traveled across our state listening to so many Minnesotans, immigrants, veterans, those who were beaten down--or just average folks who aren't usually counted for anything. They had the ability to hear us and remember us--and they stood up for us in Washington, D.C. I remember exactly the moment I heard they had died--it was the most terrible day in my political memory because something in me seemed to die. I almost lost hope. I mean hope in the big picture, hope in our nation, because who will stand up for us in Washington now? We who don't have money and power in our government? Who will push our government to be the true democracy it was meant to be?

We will, of course. Paul and Sheila would never accept such a hapless excuse. Never give up hope--keep working, wheedling, organizing! We Minnesotans will never give up our voice for justice, which is unique in our nation!
~Mina Leierwood, Minneapolis, MN



Runner-up Nominations

Because they understood the people of Minnesota from the ground and up. They understood the importance of a grassroots voice and they understood how to give that voice a place in this nation's government, in this nation's democratic system, in this nation's potential place in this world. I nominate the Wellstones so that their spirit, their fight is not forgotten in the present. They need to be remembered now just as much as in the future. Minnesota needs that spirit to rally behind.
~Nick Waller, Breezy Point, MN

Paul and Sheila were a beacon of light for Minnesotans--they touched an innumerable amount of people across the country as well! Paul passed many, many laws and fought for many groups, who often-times did not have a voice of their own especially farmers, working people, immigrants, and the disabled. Now would be a perfect time to start chronicling and turning Paul and Sheila's lives into history, because so many that he touched are still alive!!! Patti Fritz, state representative from Faribault, is a great one to start... she's told me stories about how Paul and she worked on a Poor Peoples Project in southern Minnesota, and how he inspired her to organize her union at her nursing home. There's a million more stories like this as well....
~Katie Gjertson, Minneapolis, MN

Paul's sincere, honest approach to politics made him a national voice for peace and the underprivledged.
~Rob Davis, Minneapolis, MN

He represented our state in the Senate, and he cared about the lives of all people.
~Vadim Rubinchik, Minneapolis, MN

Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building formerly the Neighborhood House for over 100 years the Neighborhood House has welcomed immigrants to Minnesota and helped them learn English, find housing, enroll in school, find jobs to name a few things that they do.
~Ann Kowski, Maplewood, MN

He, along with many other famous politicians, made Minnesota the progressive state it's been known for up until recent time. They lend themselves to an ideal for all future civil servants to work towards.
~Jennifer Lindquist, Minneapolis, MN

Regardless of how one feels about Paul's politics, Paul took his energy and genuine love for what he believed in to the Senate and represented a different kind of politician, one you could believe in.
~Aaron Shockley, Farmington, MN

Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building formerly the Neighborhood House For over 100 years, Neighborhood House has been a multi-cultural,multi-lingual center, open to all, and committed to the success of refugees and new immigrants. Providing services in the settlement house tradition since 1897 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Neighborhood House is a first-stop agency offering essential programs that help people put down roots in their new home, learn important life skills, strengthen their families, and contribute to building a diverse and thriving community. Neighborhood House is privileged to work with people from more than fifty ethnic populations as they build and sustain productive new lives.
~Keri Kowski, Oakdale, MN

Senator Paul Wellstone was small of stature, but a giant in the halls of the U.S. Senate. He cared for his constituents and it showed by his passionate and principled positions. I will never forget the first time I saw Paul Wellstone. The 1992 Minnesota DFL State convention was held in Duluth, MN. Paul Wellstone was a guest speaker. In walked an energetic and buoyant man who stood behind a podium that was too tall for him. You could barely see his head above the podium but that didn't deter him. His speech reminded me of a Hubert Humphrey speech. It began with a recitation of principles and ideals he espoused and what he felt was lacking in the current political arena. Soon he began to wind up and passionately proclaimed to the audience his vision for America and the changes he would like to make. I swear the man was almost levitating by the end of his speech! The audience roared with approval at the end of his speech. When he left the podium he shook as many hands as he could, meanwhile smiling and waving to the audience. And that was Paul Wellstone . . .
~Brenda S. Hagen, North Mankato, MN

Throughout his career, Mr. Wellstone fought for the American farmers when most of them were losing their farms to banks and big agricultural business. He spoke out and strenghthened the unions and improved working conditions for the laborers everywhere. The rural people and the poor appreciated the health and social services in their communities. Paul Wellstone became known as the person who spoke his mind and did it fearlessly, but was willing to to compromise. Even though some didn't agree with him, they still respected him. When he was growing up, his parent always told him to believe in justice and stand up for what was right. Paul Wellstone remembered that lesson from his parents all his life.
~Tonnie Winslow, plummer, MN

Added some much needed backbone to Minnesota Nice and the Democratic Party.
~Pernu Menheer

A champion for the little guy not only here in Minnesota, but nationwide. He followed the Minnesota legacy of politicans for the people.

He really made us proud as he represented our great State, and was the envy of other states because they knew there were too few like him.
~Kathy M. Jensen, Minneapolis, MN

Integrity
~Carol Premack, Minneapolis, MN

Paul and Sheila paved the way for mental health initiatives in this state and thoughout the country. They spoke for people who had no voice.
~Melissa J. Mikkonen, Saint Paul, MN

For my generation of politically active progressives, he was someone who represented the political ideal: honest, committed, brave, idealistic, creative, inspiring, and just an all around good guy. His story was David vs. Goliath, and we all cheered as he felled giant after giant. I am involved in politics today because of him, I have hope in public policy because of him, and I will always aspire to be more like him.
~Julie Blaha, Ramsey, MN

Paul showed that grass roots organizing can work in national politics. His personal ethics and his willingness to make unpopular--but moral--decisions as a politician were amazing.
~Jeremy Corey-Gruenes

Paul and Sheila Wellstone brought a voice to issues of family violence and promoted non-violence and family values.
~Shawna Johnson, Burnsville, MN

Plane crash that killed Paul and Sheila Wellstone and staff and crew The tragic crash that killed Paul and Sheila Wellstone along with their daughter, staff members, and the flight crew changed the course of the political election in 2002. It also left a deep void of sorrow, as those who had supported Wellstone and felt mutually supported by him in government matters were left without a champion on their side. Despite the loss, the public grieving ceremony at the U of M which I attended was callously misprepresented by Republicans as being some sort of pep rally. The loss of the Wellstones has left a deep void in Minnesota ever since, and signs saying 'Don't Park the Bus' are still prevalent on lawns and on bumper stickers years later.
~Kim Cope, Minneapolis, MN

His green bus campaign reaffirmed our belief in the political system, proving that you didn't have to be a millionaire to be elected senator.

  • He championed the cause of the environment and the common man.
  • His tragic early death gave us a hero to emulate and revere.
  • His ideals are being carried-on to this day and into the future.

~Edward Koehne, Mpls, MN

He exemplified Minnesota values of taking care of each other and the greater good.
~Jason A. Little, Minneapolis, MN

I think he speaks for himself, and I'm sure dozens of other people have already nominated him, I just want to add my vote to the masses!
~Ryan Paul, Minneapolis, MN

He was one of a kind, and the last of his kind -- someone who was not afraid of standing up for what was good for Minnesota and for the United States. We need his integrity and leadership again.
~K Amit, Eagan, MN

In the true Minnesota tradition he was a voice for the people, unafraid to voice his opinions. We need more like him.
~Linda Meyers, North Oaks, MN

He was one of the greatest senators our state ever had
~Peggy Butler, Rosemount, MN

Oh my gosh, where do I start? Everyone in Minnesota, whether you are a Democrat or Republican knows that Paul was a beloved friend of the people and strived to bring hope and justice to the State of Minnesota and our country, The United States of America. His death was way too soon, and I know he had many wonderful plans left to do for his loved state of Minnesota! He is deeply missed!
~Kathleen Hoiseth, Young America, MN

His voice needs to be heard.
~Anonymous

These two individuals did Minnesota proud. They worked for justice on behalf of all Minnesotans and all Americans exhibiting the highest standards of integrity, honesty and compassion.
~Dawn Baker, St. Paul, MN

Paul will be known as Minnesota's most influential US Senator. With his approach to speaking out for all the under-represented individuals and especially Minnesotans. His unfortunate early death will also add to his strong place in MN history
~Greg Rhodes

Paul Wellstone was a man of the people for the people. He had a unique way of connecting with people from all walks of life. He was a bundle of energy who very passionately fought for his beliefs and what was best for Minnesota. His green campaign bus, I know at least in Minnesota, became well known and recognized. He was a hard worker for the people of Minnesota and never forgot where he came from or who he was representing. He was a champion for the working man. Minnesota lost a lot the day the plane carrying Paul and some members of his family and campaign team tragically crashed. The televised memorial showed how much respect people, not only from Minnesota, had for Paul. The loss of Paul Wellstone is still felt today. There will never be another like him. You can't go down the road without seeing green bumper stickers saying WWWD - What Would Wellstone Do?
~Ruthe Huss, Fridley, MN

The true representative of the people of Minnesota. Never let the green bus rest.
~Jeanne Hildebrandt, Prior Lake, MN

Paul Wellstone represented the majority of Minnesotans with integrity, compassion and intelligence. His constituents were the under-represented and many others, those to whom other candidates might have paid lip service but who served those who paid them. Paul's green campaign bus was a visible reminder of his grass roots support, support which did not end with his untimely death but lives on in the hearts and lives of his loyal constituents.
~Eike Knopp=Schuryn, Minneapolis, MN

Never gave up hope or his honesty. Never forgot the little people. We miss you.
~Sheila OBrien, Richfield, MN

Paul Wellstone is a man who stood for truth in politics at a time when deception seemed to be a national trend. Wellstone transformed me from my Republican leanings to Democrat with his message of hope.
~Michael LaBrie, Rosemount, MN

Paul transformed everyone he met in one fashion or another, usually for the better. He tried his best for peace and argued against both Iraqi nightmares.
~Marguerite Nayman, St. Paul, MN

Paul Wellstone had the courage to live his beliefs. He took risks, was very accessible and in particular had the courage to live and accomplish great things in spite of Multiple Sclerosis. This was a great man who inspired hope and faith in change.
~Lisa First, Minneapolis, MN

Because for him, politician and good person didn't seem like an oxymoron. And because his legacy will shape how people view politics forever. We hope.
~Sophie Strand, Minneapolis, MN

Paul Wellstone was a ground-breaking politician.
~David Demark, St. Paul, MN

Changed politics for the state's and our country. He represented the average guy.
~Clyde Green, St. Paul, MN

Integrity. Integrity. Integrity.
~Michael Wade, Bloomington, MN

Paul brought sincerity and honesty to U.S. politics and was admired by both Republicans and Democrats for his work.
~Jaclyn Schultz, Eden Prairie, MN

His tragic death brought the entire state together in a way nothing else has in my lifetime. His politics were a force on a national level, as well.
~Laura Simpson, Minneapolis, MN

I don't believe that Minnesota would be Minnesota without the passion of Paul Wellstone. The passion of Paul Wellstone is what is Minnesota. A passion for Minnesota's people and for what's right--that's the legacy he left us with.
~Jan McCarthy

I want to nominate Senator Paul Wellstone. I feel very passionate about him and definitely think he should be added. He did a lot of work for people up in the Range of Northern, MN. He was a true Democrat. He was very passionate about his work and the people that he served. It was such a tragedy when he crashed up in Eveleth it was very hard on the state. He did a lot of wonderful things for the people.
~Tesa Stauty


Contents

History

(1944-2002)

A life of service ends too soon

Born in Washington, D.C., the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Paul Wellstone arrived in Minnesota in 1969, when he accepted a teaching job at Carleton College in Northfield. A newly minted PhD in political science and an outspoken political activist, the twenty-four-year-old professor focused on questions of economic justice and poverty and began engaging in campus activism by organizing protests and criticizing the school's administration for its corporate ties. Wellstone was a popular, charismatic teacher who became the youngest faculty member ever to receive tenure.

In 1989, Wellstone announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Virtually unknown to Minnesota voters but with a loyal following from his years as a community organizer, he hit the campaign trail hard--knocking on doors, making phone calls, and crisscrossing the state in a rickety green bus that became the symbol of his grassroots campaign. He went on to become the only candidate in the 1990 election to unseat an incumbent when he defeated his Republican opponent, Rudy Boschwitz. He was reelected to the Senate in 1996.

Wellstone brought his outspoken, unapologetically combative style to Washington (provoking President George H. W. Bush to ask, "Who is that little chickenshit?" after encountering him at a White House reception), where he took on ethics issues, passing a sweeping reform bill that limited gifts to senators from lobbyists. He also championed a liberal agenda on health care, the environment, and children's issues. He gained a national reputation for his work supporting veterans, the Hmong community, mental health care, and poverty programs. His wife, Sheila, also gained a higher profile during their time on the national scene, becoming a national spokesperson on domestic violence. With Paul, she was a key factor in getting the Violence against Women Prevention Act passed in 1998.

Wellstone was seeking his third term in the Senate when, on October 25, 2002, a plane carrying Paul and Sheila Wellstone, their daughter Marcia, and three campaign staff members crashed near the Eveleth airport in northern Minnesota. There were no survivors. Over the course of his life in Minnesota, he had evolved from an outspoken young community activist into the embodiment of a long-standing Minnesota tradition of Populist politics that went back to the Grange movement, Floyd B. Olson and the Farmer-Labor Party, Hubert Humphrey, and Eugene McCarthy.

"I will never forget the first time I saw Paul Wellstone, at the 1992 Minnesota DFL convention in Duluth. In walked an energetic and buoyant man who stood behind a podium that was too tall for him. His speech reminded me of a Hubert Humphrey speech. It began with a recitation of principles and ideals he espoused and what he felt was lacking in the current political arena. Soon he began to wind up and passionately proclaimed to the audience his vision for America and the changes he would like to make. I swear the man almost levitating by the end of the speech! When he left the podium he shook as many hands as he could, meanwhile smiling and waving to the audience. And that was Paul Wellstone."
Nominator Brenda S. Hagen, North Mankato, Minnesota

Resource Links

WHOA - Wellstone House of Organization and Activism

Related photos from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society

Power Line Controversy, 1976

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