Guest Books for politicians are among Legacy.com’s most-signed. If you visit our Remember Politicians site, you can view obituaries and Guest Books for Presidents Reagan and Ford, senators like Edward Kennedy, mayors like Maynard Jackson, and many other major players in the political world.
Midterm elections are almost upon us. There are some hotly contested races this year, along with the standard mudslinging from one side of the aisle to the other and back. Tempers flare at this time of year, and it can be hard to see the positive side of the “other team’s” candidates. So maybe it’s a good time to remember a politician who, despite wearing his liberal heart on his sleeve, won admiration and respect from all points of the political spectrum.
“Politics is not left, right, or center,” Senator Paul Wellstone was known to say. “It’s about improving people’s lives.” And that’s exactly what Wellstone worked tirelessly to do throughout his 12 years in the Senate.
As a professor of political science at Carleton College, Wellstone became involved in social justice movements and the Democratic Party, and in 1990 he launched a grassroots campaign for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz. Wellstone came from behind to win, despite being outspent more than five to one, and he won again in 1996. In his elected role, he fought tirelessly to help the people who couldn’t always help themselves – bringing insurance coverage to the mentally ill, supporting the rights of victims of domestic violence, fighting for governmental compensation for atomic veterans. His constituents loved him for it, and they might have voted him into a third term in 2002. If they had, he surely would have spent the next six years continuing his fight for the “little fella.” But on October 25 of that year – just 11 days before the election in which he was running – Wellstone died in a plane crash in northern Minnesota, along with his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, three staffers, and both pilots of the plane.
The outpouring of grief for Wellstone was immediate and massive. We at Legacy.com saw it firsthand – we published a Guest Book for him on the 25th, as soon as we received word of his death. By the end of the next day, we had published more than 2500 entries. The messages of condolence and admiration and sadness continued to flood in, until it became the most popular Guest Book of 2002.
When you read Wellstone’s Guest Book, you’ll notice a few themes that stand out as mourners mention them again and again. One is Wellstone’s love for his constituents. He cared about every single person he represented, and he always took the time to listen to their views and consider how he could help them. You’ll also see many entries noting that Wellstone always maintained the courage of his convictions. He couldn’t be swayed by big money, big business, or anything other than the needs of the people he served.
And maybe most important for us to remember this election season is the way people respected Wellstone – even those from other parties, even those who didn’t agree with most of his positions. They still saw a man of integrity and knew he would do everything he could to help them, if they called on him. You can see that admiration in entry after entry in Wellstone’s Guest Book, from points all across the political spectrum:
– “I have thought very highly of Senator Wellstone, although as a moderate Republican, he hasn’t always shared my positions. The democracy would be much stronger if we had the other 99 Senators of equal conscience as Senator Wellstone, with varying points of view.”
– “I had the great opportunity to work on Paul’s campaign in 1990. My fondest memory was when he was standing in front of the DFL Building at the State Fair. I was standing by him with a campaign sign. Soon he was hidden by the crowd around him. He didn’t panic. He didn’t flinch. He just let everyone meet with him and discuss their concerns. And, he didn’t leave until everyone got a chance to speak. He showed me that day that he truly cared about the people he wanted to serve.”
– “I admired Paul Wellstone, not for his politically philosophy, because on most matters, we disagree, however, for his honesty and commitment to his convictions. He held fast to his values, regardless of the foe, and, whether you supported him or not, that is one quality you just had to admire. May he rest in peace!”
– “Paul was a really great guy. He was the only politician to ever take the time and come talk to us students at Osseo Senior High. He cared about what was important to us in the way of education and he actually listened…a lesson all politicians should take from Senator Wellstone. Paul, you will be missed! Thank you for everything you did for this great state of Minnesota!”
– “What I admired most about Senator Wellstone was not only that he stood unflinchingly for everything he believed, but also that he was unafraid, when necessary, to admit doubts in votes cast or statements spoken. My only hope is that my generation can follow in his footsteps…by keeping our minds open and our hearts on our sleeves. He was a man among men and will be missed deeply across the nation, but especially here, in his home.”
– “I am a Republican, yet you did this country proud. You never forgot what integrity was. You were a patriot of the highest order. I salute you sir!”