The following are speeches and statements made about Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila upon their death, Oct. 25, in a tragic plane accident, which also took the life of their daugher Marcia, three campaign workers and the two pilots.

The crushing grief felt by the people of Minnesota and beyond was turned into militant determination to continue Wellstone’s progressive legacy.

Attacked by the ultra right, and in particular the Republicans, as “partisan,” the truth is that the memorial was over 20,000 people who cried, clapped and pledged to “stand up, keep fighting” for peace, social, racial and economic justice, even beyond the elections.

Every call to stand up and fight, and to continue Wellstone’s legacy was met with cheers, foot-stomping, standing ovations and militant determination to “keep on keeping on.” It was the birth of a movement, as if six people died and 20,000 took their place. The thought of it scares the ultra right – as did the boos that both Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Gov. Jesse Ventura (I) met, which is why they attacked the memorial so viciously.

Working families and union members of all races and nationalities mourn the passing of this fighting senator, known as “labor’s senator,” and of Sheila, Marcia, Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy and Will McLaughlin, who were all working for a day when politics would only be about, as Wellstone said, “the improvement of people’s lives.”

Wellstone’s coalition was one of inclusion. “We all do better, when we all do better,” he said. Labor, communities of color, women, farmers, environmentalists, gays and lesbians, immigrants, faith-based and peace activists, veterans, students and the disabled all found their champion in Wellstone.

The People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo mourns the death of these American heroes and pledges to be part of carrying on the Wellstone legacy.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Wellstone sons, David and Mark, their families and all the families of the crash victims. We join with others who have invoked the labor movement’s theme, “We mourn our dead and fight like hell for the living.”

“A Minnesota farewell with few precedents”

Excerpted from Nick Coleman’s column, Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Oct. 30 .

The doors to Williams Arena, jammed to the rafters, closed two hours before the ceremony began. But still they came, thousands upon thousands of mourners, walking in a procession that looked like God had given new orders to Noah: Bring 1,000 of every kind of Minnesotan.

And so it came to pass. They came wearing jackets with the names of Indian reservations on them. They came in VFW caps and they came in traditional costumes from Africa and Asia. They came in union jackets and they came in wheel chairs. They came leaning on canes or carrying children bundled against the cold. They came and filled the old basketball barn to the rafters, spilling over into the women’s sports pavilion, spilling out on the street, hugging, crying, laughing and applauding. Who ever had a better funeral?

“Remembering Paul’’

Excerpted from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) Oct. 29 memorial eulogy.

He was my best friend in the Senate.

But, in truth, Paul Wellstone was one of those rare souls who so many saw as their best friend. He had a powerful authenticity that made a miner in the Iron Range know he was as important to Paul as the President of the United States.

He never had to proclaim his decency. It shone forth in great acts of political courage and small acts of human kindness. He never had to say he cared.

We saw it in him everyday – in dozens of ways – from that hand relentlessly chopping the air as he stood on the Senate floor speaking for those who otherwise had no voice.

The hard-working folks he cared about most didn’t have lobbyists or influence. But they had Paul Wellstone. And he truly was their best friend.

Paul always had a great sense of humor and a sense of perspective. He never took himself too seriously. He loved telling the story of one of his early Senate speeches, which he thought rather eloquent and passionate. [When] a senior Senator, Senator Hollings of South Carolina, approached him and said, “Young man, you remind me of Hubert Humphrey.” Paul swelled with pride. Then Senator Hollings added, “You talk too much.” And Paul would laugh and laugh when he told that story.

Paul may have talked a lot, but he meant every word. He showed the way to lead is by following your conscience.

And when injustice was proposed, or unfairness was advancing, or selfishness was on the march, Paul would go into battle and he did not care if he was the only one. He may have suffered from a bad back, but he had a spine of steel.

Everyone called him Paul. Not just his colleagues, but staff and citizens alike. He wouldn’t have it any other way. No one ever wore the title of “Senator” better – or used it less.

To the people of Minnesota, I say thank you. Thank you for giving Paul to the nation.

Now we see an outpouring of grief and admiration in this arena and across our land every bit as authentic as he was. It is a tribute to him and to the yearning for a politics that truly can be the noble profession of putting principle above polls. Paul was the soul of the Senate. Sometimes he cast votes that even some of his friends disagreed with on war or on welfare. But when he did, he was the mirror in which we, his colleagues, looked at ourselves and searched our own hearts.

We celebrate the community organizer who understood how to bring people together – rural and urban, environmentalists and labor, Republicans and Democrats … even Minnesotans and Iowans.

We pay tribute to a leader – a true DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Liberal] liberal – who constantly reminded those of us who are Democrats of the real center of gravity of our party – the progressive ground of our being – that everyone should have the chance to reach their full potential.

And we honor a man of principle who, for all his convictions, also had the rarest of gifts in politics. He actually sometimes decided the other person was right.

Paul Wellstone didn’t just dare to imagine a better America – he helped build it.

Because of what he did, family farmers will have a better future. Because of what he demanded, mental illness will someday soon be treated equally in our health care system. And because of who he married – and because of Sheila’s passionate charge – more women and children will find safe harbor from the scourge of domestic abuse.

Paul was a hopeful man. Green was his color. The color of springtime. The color of hope. And the color of that bus he climbed aboard 12 years ago as he set out on his way to a better America. But Paul never meant it to be a solo voyage. He wanted us all on board. Now we must continue Paul’s journey for justice.

So tonight, I ask you: Will you stand up and join together and board that bus?

For Paul Wellstone, will you stand up and keep fighting for better wages for those who mop our floors and clean our bathrooms; for those who take care of our elderly, nurse the sick, teach our kids, and reach out to the homeless?

For Sheila, will you stand up and keep fighting for our families so women and children will be safe from domestic abuse?

For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for cleaner air and cleaner water – to protect the environment for our children and our future?

For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for peace, understanding, and an end to exploitation of women and children around the world?

For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting to end discrimination based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for the poor, the homeless, those left on the roadside of life?

Let’s get on that green bus together. Let’s keep moving to a better America. Let’s stand up and keep fighting – and keep saying yes. For justice. For hope. For life.

For Paul.

“They stood for equality”

Excerpts from the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) tribute.

America lost two of its most dedicated patriots today. No one loved this country and its spirit and diversity more than Sheila and Paul Wellstone.

Sen. Wellstone was often the sole voice for women, children, the disadvantaged and disheartened, always speaking out for those who had no voice in the halls of Congress or other corridors of elite power. At his side today and forever, his soulmate and greatest resource and strength, Sheila Wellstone dedicated her time and energy to eradicating violence and sexual assault from the lives of children, women and families.

Throughout his two terms, Paul Wellstone was a giant in the Senate. The billions of dollars recently reauthorized for the Violence Against Women Act are part of his bequest. He believed so deeply in the fruits of peace that he was willing to risk his reelection and political career with his recent vote against the Iraq war resolution.

NOW members everywhere are in shock and in mourning at the loss of these Titans. We are desolate and grieving, but nonetheless determined to renew our spirits in their honor and use that energy to bring to this country a new awakening and a new dedication that will do justice to their memory.

“Wellstone’s voice will be missed on reservations”

Excerpted from Dorreen Yellow Bird’s column, Grand Forks Herald, Oct. 29.

Sadly, at times, it takes a tragic death like that of the honorable Sen. Paul Wellstone to make us realize how important his voice was to Minnesota, in general, and to Native Americans, in particular. Wellstone listened to tribal people and sometimes was our only voice.

As the populations on reservations grow, and American Indians become shrewd in the political arena, our block of votes grows more pivotal to election outcomes, and we will have a stronger voice.

Some casino tribes, I was told, are seeing political leaders who support big business as partners. They have money for campaigns and that goes a long way toward electing a candidate.

So, I repeat the advice from an old spiritual man, who said to look for a leader who selflessly has the whole tribe in mind – the whole nation, and not just those who can buy an election.

Paul Wellstone was one of those leaders, and his death is a personal loss for Native people.

“Tribute to those lost”

Excerpted from Mark Wellstone’s Oct. 29 memorial eulogy.

More than anything, I have a message to my dad: Dad, we’re ok. Dave and I are ok. The thousands and thousands of people that you left behind that care about you … we will carry on. We will see this legacy continue on. I have no doubt.

When I think about my mom … I have one word and I wrote it in capital letters and it says, “Everything.’“ That’s what my mom was to us. That’s what my mom was to my dad. She was everything.

I love you, Mom. And I’m going to tell you something else. My mom and dad this last few weeks, few months, they weren’t easy. But I tell you they were incredibly beautiful times for us as a family. We could feel the outpouring of support. We could feel the love that my dad and my mom and my sister had created.

My dad … used to live by some words. “Never separate the lives you live from the words you speak. Never separate the lives you live from the words you speak.”

We will carry on the fight. We will carry on the struggle. We will carry on the tradition. We will carry on the pride. We will carry on the struggle and we will carry on the legacy. We will win.

“A profile in courage”

Excerpts from United Steelworkers of America President Leo Gerard’s statement.

Words cannot express the depth of our grief.

Paul was a man of towering convictions. His activism, his every word, every vote he cast, expressed in one way or another the depth of his allegiance to every citizens’ right to be treated with dignity, decency and respect.

His loss is especially devastating for American working families, because Paul was truly a profile in courage in defending the rights of working people, more often than not in the face of stiff odds and powerful interests.

His passing breaks our hearts, for he was more than our ally in many struggles, he was our brother, an apostle of all that we value.

Our members will miss Paul’s advocacy. I will miss his friendship. But most of all, America will miss the force of his unflagging convictions.

Download PDF version of ‘Remembering Wellstone – the soul of the Senate’ in spanish and english

Tags:

CONTRIBUTOR

Comments

comments