In Memory of Senator Wellstone

To the Editors:

Sen. Paul Wellstone should have died, peacefully, when he was wise and gray, surrounded by friends and family and all those that loved and admired him as the sunset over the Minnesota countryside. Instead, he died when a small twin-engine plane violently slammed into a bog on a cold day in the Iron Range. This bleak and lonesome death was not simply tragic or unjust for such a compassionate and principled man and his family, but heartbreaking for Wellstone’s millions of supporters both in Minnesota and around the country.
Wellstone was the last unabashed liberal. He tirelessly defended the most vulnerable and marginalized citizens: the poor and destitute, the mentally ill, immigrants, children and minorities. He made no apologizes for helping the weak and disenfranchised before the rich. He once told a reporter that he could not look at the faces of poor citizens and explain to them that the government had no money for housing, healthcare or childcare programs, but could spend 1.7 trillion dollars on tax breaks.
He served as the conscience of his party and the lone voice for the voiceless. He had an unrelenting faith in the generosity and hope of the American people. His warmth, charisma and devotion united steelworkers and environmentalists, pacifists and veterans, and rural farmers and urban immigrants. Wellstone’s terrible death leaves a gapping political chasm just as JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King Jr., left during the 1960s. He was impassioned but never polarizing. His dissenting vote was always cast for his constituents. He never reveled in or glorified his role in the Senate. He showed that constructive engagement in an imperfect system could produce results. He mastered parliamentary procedure and quietly and diligently worked hard to ensure that even if a bill was sure to pass he could offer substantive amendments to protect the defenseless.
We, at Oberlin, need to learn from his example and ensure that we do not marginalize ourselves, nor should we ever forget that our goal should be to lift all of those who struggle to make a better life and to constantly remind society that it cannot turn its back to the suffering of others. We must never marvel in our own rebellious or contradictory nature. We always must look for ways to ensure that our voice is heard and the dreams of good people are never forgotten.
The most meaningful tribute that can be made to Wellstone, a hero and defender of the helpless, is to carry on his efforts. To Paul Wellstone: a man with a fierce spirit, enormous heart, pragmatic wisdom and ideal dreams, all of which will never die.

–David A. Leahy
College first-year

November 8
November 15

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