|We should all be so fortunate to die as well-loved as the Wellstones did. But fortune had nothing to do with it. Love of the Wellstones came because they put others before themselves.
Few of us can have that said about us now. Some say it of themselves and don't realize they're standing in a puddle of self-pity.
Paul Wellstone always believed in the liberal causes that thought of the less fortunate first. That's what made him so proud to be a senator from Minnesota. We have that kind of tradition here. It's one that has made this state have such a high quality of life. He brought that tradition and those issues to the U.S. Senate to make this nation even greater.
Feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick, employ the unemployed with family-supporting jobs, protect children, fund education, honor vets with their benefits...radical concepts to many who would protect money and power first.
Paul's lifelong fight to give aid to the defenseless through organizing was strategy he learned well and taught even better. To have pushed himself to access the world's greatest stage, the Senate, from which to expound his beliefs is an over achievement that may have no equal in our lifetimes. It was the toughest class he would ever try to teach. Rather than a classroom for ideas, his part was too often an ignored lecture. Yet he accomplished much.
But for his beliefs, his energy and his passion he was accused by opponents of charging windmills, of being an anachronism, an embarrassment, of inciting class warfare, of being a joke. He stood tall to criticism and in 12 years embarrassed many with the strength of his convictions, his "spine of steel" as Tom Harkin put it.
After 12 years of fighting to make this country a better place, no one can deny that Paul Wellstone was on the right track from day one. That is unless they are more concerned with protecting power and profits than people. The "Soul of the Senate" Tom Daschle called him. The mirror that forced his colleagues to look into their hearts, said Harkin.
We've heard this all before. The inspiration and soul-searching that is springing from that Oct. 25 airplane crash and the attendance of so many of his colleagues at the memorial will too soon be lost in the Senate once again. Some will rise in the future to remind colleagues of the Wellstone legacy. But soon their comfort level will be allowed to return because their mirror has broken. The 100 will go back to serving the power and politics of those who can afford the expensive seats at their table. Seldom will anyone rise to deliver a troubling lecture that will make the 99 decide they need to rise to go to the restroom.
The irony of his first speech on the Senate floor being against a Bush Iraq war and his last lonely vote against a Bush Iraq war 12 years later are damning evidence of senators seeking comfort levels driven by pollsters and re-election bids. Again they stand ready to shed blood for oil and money.
Yet Paul Wellstone accomplished much and left us with great hope. There is a Wellstone Legacy. In the streets his voice, his idealism, his concern for others, his organizing and his action, will thankfully live long after many of us left standing have also fallen. Will we be so fortunate then to be so loved, remembered and missed? The call has gone out. We have been summoned. We are needed.
Paul had a favorite saying that was turned into a button for his staffers this week: The future will belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Erik Peterson says we need to tag that with: and organize to make sure it happens.
Jim Hightower told us Oct. 5 that we need to do more than wear a button that tells the world what we believe in. Lets make sure he was preaching to the choir. Paul would want us to keep leading the nation from the grassroots, for the common good. He will be cheering us on, as always.
This commentary originally appeared in "The View from the Ditch" column in the Duluth Labor World, which Larry Sillanpa edits.