Remembering Paul Wellstone, A Symbol of the Progressive Movement
Thursday marked the tenth anniversary of the passing of one of America's great progressive heroes, Sen. Paul Wellstone.
In his tribute this week to his friend, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said that even now it still feels like “there is a void in the Senate,” and that there are still times when he expects to see the senator “holding forth on the floor, chopping the air with his hands, speaking with his special passion … urging us to do the right thing.”
Once an idealistic college professor who, in 1990, decided to take on an incumbent Republican senator who outspent him seven-to-one as he crisscrossed the state of Minnesota in what would become his trademark green campaign bus, Wellstone surprised everyone and won.
A man of unmistakable passion and courage, the late Sen. Wellstone fought tirelessly for the causes and issues he believed in. Whether it was trying to limit big money in politics, protecting Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Preserve from drilling, standing up for workers in his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or calling for caution when others were rushing into Iraq, he never backed down.
He practiced a different brand of politics that meant that while he might not persuade his colleagues to vote with him, they would always be proud to stand next to him because he fought for what he believed in.
One of his greatest legacies was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), passed in 1994. Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, were an unstoppable force, working together to make this much-needed legislation a reality. It was thanks to their efforts that for the first time, domestic violence was finally treated as a crime and women received the protection they needed.
Wellstone Action is another truly great legacy that will live on for years to come. The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, founded by his sons Mark and David, has helped to train more than 55,000 student activists, organizers, and even propelled some remarkable candidates. Today, it continues his mission of making politics about improving people's lives through the development of diverse and passionate leaders who will continue to work for progressive change in communities across the country.
Paul Wellstone's spirit is alive today throughout the progressive movement. So much of what he stood for still animates us. As he once said: “Politics is about what we create by what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine.”
The best way to honor his passion is to stand up and keep fighting, constantly striving to bring us closer to the America he imagined.
Abraham White is a communications associate at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @abwhite7.