On Friday, Oct. 25 the Senate lost a true fighter, a state lost a champion of their cause, and the nation lost a man of conviction. Senator Paul Wellstone, while traveling with his wife, daughter, three campaign workers and two pilots, died in a plane crash en route to the northern town of Eveleth, Minnesota. Wellstone is most well known for his fiery speeches, his unabashedly liberal stances and his annual ranking as the worst-dressed senator. Wellstone should also be remembered as a caring man, who not only talked about reaching out to others, he did it – whether it was inviting Capitol security guards home for dinner, or becoming good friends with Senator Jesse Helms. He was a man who stood up for his beliefs, in a time when politicians unashamedly trivialize their own positions for political gain. He was the only senator up for reelection in 1996 who voted against the welfare reform package that removed the safety net from millions whom society has decided to leave behind.
Just this month he confronted a popular president and voted against a move towards war with Iraq, knowing it could cost him the election. He voted with his heart, not the political winds. Because of deep convictions, he actually voted for the conservative Defense of Marriage Act, even though he risked losing his liberal base. Outside of politics we remember Wellstone as a loving husband and a great father. His devotion to his wife Sheila was profound, and it was rarely that I did not see the two of them together when I worked in his St. Paul office. More than anything, Wellstone was inspirational. Anyone who listened to him speak (he rarely used notes) knew at once that this was a passionate man who wished to convey his passion to the people around him. He succeeded with me; after working in his Senate office for a year in high school I voyaged to GW because he convinced me D.C. was the place where dreams and visions could be transformed from talk into reality. Thank you Paul, I still believe that.
graduate student and ’01 alumnus