It’s taken me the better part of 2 days to understand why the death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone has affected me as much as it has. It was not like I have campaigned for him and I wasn’t even old enough to vote when he won the seat in 1991. He was certainly further to the left on most issues than I would have voted. That said, I would not have wished for any other senator to represent Minnesota or me. Now I’ll tell you why.

Paul Wellstone was not a politician. He was an activist; an advocate; a champion of the less-fortunate peoples of our country. Paul Wellstone did not represent himself in Washington, nor did he represent people that looked like him, demographically speaking. Paul Wellstone fought, with energy and enthusiasm, for the people of our country who are far too often forgotten and left behind by our political system – a system that is too quick, in recent years, to move towards the middle on all issues. In such a system Paul Wellstone was, in many cases, a single voice rising out of the din of concession and conciliation to challenge the notion that our country’s lawmakers must bend to the will of the middle at all costs – that there is no place for a more liberal view (or conservative one) in our government. I say that there is a place for free debate. I say that without a debate from all sides, an issue cannot be adequately explored. I say that without senators like Paul Wellstone and Jesse Helms our democracy is greatly weakened.

On Friday October 25 Minnesota lost a senator who believed that it was important to speak your conscience and debate issues facing our nations from more than one viewpoint. On Friday October 25, the nation lost a leader who was not afraid to stand up and fight for what he thought was right – no matter what the odds were against him. On Friday October 25, 2002 I lost a person whom I was proud to have served in our government – proud to have served me.

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