Today marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia, three staff members (Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic, and Mary McEvoy) and the pilot and co-pilot on the plane that went down that awful day. I was working for Paul at the time – as the staff director of the Senate HELP Committee’s Labor Subcommittee, which he chaired. I remember that morning vividly – sitting in my office, hearing the news, experiencing that moment when tragedy strikes where one’s heart simply refuses to accept what the head is telling you.
Paul was my boss, my mentor – and my friend – and I miss him dearly.
He was a fighter.
He was in politics to fight for causes he believed in and for the people who didn’t have representation. As he was fond of saying in his speeches:
Politics is not about money or power games, or winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives, lessening human suffering, advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in the world.
And he fought for those who didn’t have big money and powerful interests in their corner. In the introduction to Terry Gydesen’s wonderful photo album of tribute to Paul and Sheila that sits on my desk every day as inspiration, Jeff Blodgett, who was Paul’s dear friend and campaign manager, reminds us that on the day of the plane crash, the campaign was about to release a TV ad of Paul looking directly into the camera and explaining why he wanted to serve:
I don’t represent the big oil companies. I don’t represent the big pharmaceutical companies. I don’t represent the Enrons of this world, but you know what, they already have great representation in Washington. It’s the rest of the people that need it. I represent the people of Minnesota.
Paul was a dreamer.
He dreamed of a better world and that dream inspired all those around him. To this day I carry with me a button with Paul’s picture and his mantra that “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
We’re in a huge fight right now for the causes, values and people that Paul felt so deeply about. He was a proud liberal and I was proud to work with him in the fight for a better America. He knew that you didn’t always win the fights, but as he said many times: “You have to start a fight to win a fight.”
So over the less than two weeks we have before these critical elections, Paul will be sitting on my shoulder as I fight for outcomes on November 6th that will give us elected officials who share Paul’s vision. And I’ll continue fighting – inspired by Paul’s memory – for as long as it takes to achieve an America that improves people’s lives, lessens human suffering and advances the cause of peace and justice at home and abroad.